If a worker is required to have a break at a certain time, it is important for them to take these breaks as required. They need to be recorded properly and the employer must maintain accurate records.
The U.S. Labor Department found that workers for the Honolulu Board of Water Supply were consistently denied their lunch breaks for about two years.
Honolulu water supply workers never took breaks and were never paid properly
Investigators with the labor department found that water supply workers would routinely just work through lunch or not even bother to take breaks at all during the course of the day. This situation became more problematic when it was revealed that the Board would automatically deduct at least thirty minutes from each employee’s pay for the break, regardless of whether it was taken or not.
After the review of all related information and documents was completed, the labor department found that most workers would simply not take a lunch break at least two or three times per week. They were not paid for this additional work, and some of them could have possibly been paid overtime hours, which never happened. Employers also have to be careful that their records are accurate, as unpaid overtime or improper record keeping will cause additional labor violations along with unpaid wages.
The fifteen employees of the Water Board who were not paid properly were given approximately $16,000 in overtime and back pay. This decision could also affect other employers throughout the state of Hawaii. The government stated that employers who have lots of field workers need to view this case as a teaching point. They stated that employees will need to be paid if they skip any breaks, and it is easiest to just make sure they get an uninterrupted break when required and keep a record of it to avoid problems. Employers can also check their own records afterward to make sure everything matches.
The violations began as early as 2013, when the board had attempted to implement a new billing system. An audit found that this program was either improperly managed or never worked as it was intended. There were consistent problems with errors or customers who were billed improperly, which led to more work than usual for the board employees.
The Board of Water Supply released a statement that they would cooperate with the federal government as needed, but they cannot comment any further on an ongoing investigation.
Talk to an attorney about unpaid wages
If you believe that your employer may be paying you properly based on overtime requirements or other issues, contact a labor lawyer in your area. You can use the directory on USAttorneys.com to find a local professional in Hawaii.