Frequently Asked Questions About Leave & Break Rights


If you are an employee, then you are probably given breaks during a regular shift and some sort of leave benefit for when you cannot come to work. However, if you are like most other workers, what meal breaks or leave rights you are entitled to may seem confusing.

To get a clearer idea of your break and leave rights, our team at Donati Law, PLLC in Memphis has put together a helpful FAQ list. Take a moment to review it, share it with your coworkers, and feel free to call our employment lawyers at (901) 209-5500 if you have additional questions, or if you need our help for an employment law case for your own in Tennessee, Arkansas, or Mississippi.

Frequently Asked Questions About Leave & Break Rights

  1. Is holiday pay covered by the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA)?
    No, holiday pay or leave are not guaranteed by the FLSA. It is strictly up to your employer and your employment contract if you have to work on that day or not.
  2. Is paid time-off (PTO) covered by the FLSA?
    No, PTO is also not a promise to employees that is backed by the FLSA. PTO is decided by the employer because it is not technically time worked. Today, PTO is fairly standardized among industries because it is expected, but it is not guaranteed by the FLSA.
  3. Does the FLSA require sick pay?
    You might be surprised that there are no federal requirements to give employees sick pay or paid sick leave. If you become too ill to work, then it is up to your employer to decide if you should be compensated while you stay home and rest. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) addresses when leave may be permitted in certain medical situations.
  4. Does the FLSA guarantee breaks?
    Again, the surprising answer is ‘no.’ The FLSA has no clause that guarantees you a lunch, coffee, or rest break. Employees offer these breaks either under some state laws or due to common courtesy.
  5. Are breaks compensable under the FLSA?
    Designated meal breaks must be 30 minutes or more of uninterrupted time devoted to anything other than work. However, they do not need to be paid. If your employer is deducting meal breaks that you are not taking or working through, that may be a wage and hour violation.
  6. What constitutes uninterrupted time?
    Your break is only considered uninterrupted if you are not obligated or expected to conduct any work at all during them. For example, if you are eating lunch at your desk and are interrupted by a phone call you need to answer, your break is interrupted. In such a scenario, you should be compensated for that time worked.
  7. Can your employer auto-deduct meal breaks?
    If you are taking meal breaks without interruption, then an auto-deduction of them by your employer is permitted. If you are working through breaks, or if your employer is reducing time actually worked via meal break auto-deductions, it could be considered a wage and hour violation.
  8. Is your employer required to give breaks to nursing mothers?
    Yes, the FLSA guarantees both break time and space for nonexempt nursing mothers to allow them to safely and comfortably express breast milk. The break time must be a “reasonable amount” and the space must be private, free from intrusion, readily available, and not a bathroom.
  9. Are breaks for nursing mothers required to be paid?
    No. If employees are not paid during breaks, then nursing mothers who use their break to express breast milk do not need to be paid during that time, either. Conversely, if breaks are compensated, then nursing breaks should be as well.

Have more questions? Remember: you can call (901) 209-5500 to connect with Donati Law, PLLC at any time. We look forward to hearing from you.

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