Missed breaks are a costly mistake

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An American bakery is in legal hot water over whether its employees are getting their full break-time entitlements.

After firing an employee for poor customer service, Borrachini’s Baker in Seattle now finds itself facing a claim for $7,901 in back wages. The employee claims she was owed for nine years of denied 10-minute breaks every four hours worked, which are required by local law. The organization supporting her claims other employees have confirmed they do not get the legally mandates short breaks.

Owner Remo Borracchini claims his workers get frequent “mini-breaks”,  which adds up to 10 minutes over the course of a four-hour shift. While Canadian law does not mandate short breaks, most provinces legislate for a half hour break for every five hours of work.

Importantly, these breaks must be uninterrupted, as shown in a 2007 arbitration between the City of Ottawa and the Ottawa-Carleton Public Employees’ Union which found 80 per cent of meal breaks were interrupted. The arbitrator found the city owed paramedics time and a half, or time in lieu over missed meal breaks, and was required to compensate the employees from July 2005.

In a busy workplace, breaks can be easy to miss. If you’re worried your staff are skipping their breaks, talk to them about whether they feel pressured to work through their meals, what interruptions they deal with and how they can work around it.

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