We’ve often discussed importance of keeping accurate records of the hours your employees work. Here is another example of how accurately tracking your employee’s time working can help protect your business from possible claims brought by employees under the New York State Labor Law.

According to § 162 of the New York Labor Law, businesses “in connection with a mercantile or other establishment” are required to provide employees, at a minimum, a 30 minute meal period. You can read the guidelines for § 162 online by clicking on the following link: http://www.labor.ny.gov/formsdocs/wp/LS443.pdf. This meal period must occur between 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM. You must grant this meal period to all employees that work a shift that is at least six hours long and spans the noonday meal period. Furthermore, employees that work shifts that begin before 11:00 AM and continue later than 7:00 PM must receive an additional meal period of at least 20 minutes between 5:00 PM and 7:00 PM. There are certain exceptions, such as “one employee shifts,” where only one person is on duty or is the only one in a specific occupation. However, even these exceptions require employee consent and your business is obligated to provide an uninterrupted meal period to every employee that requests one.

As you can see, many of your employees are entitled to mandatory meal periods. Employees in sales positions may even be entitled to two meal periods (noonday and evening). What would you do if an employee claimed you violated this law by not allowing him or her to take these meal breaks? Remember, it will be your word against the employee’s if you lack accurate records. So make sure you keep track of when your employees take their meal periods. An accurate timekeeping process, which supervisors enforce, will help you keep track of when your employees are taking their meal breaks. Having employees clock in and out for meal breaks, for example, can help deflect employee claims that you violated the Meal Period Provision of the New York State Labor Law.

For our clients outside of New York, your state may have similar provisions. If you want to see whether your state has a similar law, please contact us at 631-224-7000.