Some Whole Foods employees are pushing back on a policy change that will limit their paid breaks to 10 minutes.
The change, which was reported by CBS and Vice, will reportedly affect Whole Foods stores in Southern California, the Mid-Atlantic, the Midwest and the South. Previously, employees in these areas were allocated 15-minute breaks.
A Whole Foods employee, who wished to remain anonymous, told Vice that the new policy comes as “just another insult from corporate.”
Likewise, the Twitter account, Whole Worker Union, criticized the policy, claiming the shortened time includes “coming and returning from the break room.”
However, a Whole Foods spokesperson confirmed to FOX Business that the updated policy “will provide the vast majority of Team Members with more break time throughout their workday” and earlier in the day after factoring in other rest and meal breaks. This, however, will depend on the length of their shift. Beyond that, Whole Foods didn’t specify how this policy will allow for more breaks.
The change was intended to create one uniform break time policy and will not change the length of any employee’s work shift or their pay, according to Whole Foods.
Despite employee frustrations, “Whole Foods is not violating the law by making a policy change so long as that change is compliant with federal law and the law of each state,” trial attorney Misty Marris told FOX Business.
Marris, who deals heavily in employment law, is the co-managing partner of the New York office of Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani, LLP.
Under the Fair Labor Standard’s Act (FLSA), employers are not required to provide meal or rest break periods at all. However, the FLSA is not the only statute at issue, according to Marris.
An employer must also be aware of any applicable state or local law. Many states mirror the federal law, however, there are some outliers, “namely New York and California,” she said.
While New York requires meal breaks only, California requires meal and rest breaks. However, neither state requires employees to be paid for meal or rest breaks, according to Marris.
In fact, “employers are not required to pay employees for their break unless the employee has ongoing duties during the break,” Nicholas Fortuna, founder and managing partner of the law firm Allyn & Fortuna LLP, told FOX Business. An example of this would be if an employee has to stay in the store and be available in case he or she is needed, Fortuna said.
These federal, state and local laws serve as a “baseline for what an employer must do” and do not require anything beyond that, Marris said. However, an employer may provide additional benefits such as rest breaks or even paid rest breaks in a corporate policy as a means of creating company morale or for employee retention.
“However, it must be emphasized that legally they only have to provide what is required under the law,” Marris added.
Although Whole Foods is not facing any legal ramifications, Marris said “there may be other non-legal considerations as far as negative publicity, keeping employees happy and retaining good workers who rely on those additional benefits.”
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