You are here: Information Center >> Employment >> Employee Rights In The Workplace >> In General

In General

Does my boss have to give me a rest break?

Under federal law the answer is no. However, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does provide that when breaks are granted and they last between 5 and 20 minutes, they must be considered work time and therefore must be paid.

Breaks on the state level vary greatly. A number of states mandate a 10-minute break for every 4 hours worked. Some have special rules for specific industries. Check with your local Department of Labor for the rules that apply to your location.

My boss has me eat lunch at my desk so I can answer the phone. Should I be paid for this time?

The answer is most likely yes. Meal periods are generally not compensable where:

TIP: To avoid questions being raised about whether these standards are being met, it may be advisable not to allow employees to eat at their desks.

Does my company have to offer sick leave?

Sick leave is granted at the discretion of the employer. Most companies offer a limited amount of sick days or personal time off (PTO) days in recognition that illnesses and emergencies arise.

CAUTION: Companies that provide sick leave or PTO days often closely monitor the amount of time being taken off. An employee who takes an excessive amount of days may be subject to disciplinary action up to and including separation from employment.

TIP: It makes sense to have a written sick leave policy. The policy should include such things as:

Does my employer have to pay me for federal holidays?

No. Payment of holidays is up to employer. The 10 federal holidays are:

Many employers give only 8 or 9 of these days off.

What does it mean to accrue vacation time?

Many employers have policies stating that vacation time "accrues." What this means is for every month you work, you accrue (or earn) time for vacations. If your company policy is that employees can take 2 weeks (10 days) of earned vacation per year, you would be accruing the time at a rate of .833 days per month (10 days/12 months = .833).

If I have earned vacation time and have not taken it, must my employer pay me for that time?

Most likely. Twenty-nine states have rules dealing with "use it or lose it" policies. The most stringent is California. Check with your state Department of Labor to see if your state has such a restriction.

Can my boss tell me when to use my vacation time?

Yes. A company can designate an annual time when the facility is closed or restrict employees from taking time off during their busy season.

TIP: To avoid problems, it makes sense to tell your employer as far in advance when you plan to take vacation so coverage or other alternative arrangements can be made.

Must my employer pay me if I take time off to vote?

It depends. Federal law protects an employee's right to vote, but it does not require that private employers give their employees time off to do so. On the state level however, the rules are different. Twenty states require that employees be paid at least for the time spent voting. A number of others require that employees give notice to their employer that they are going to take time off. Check with your state Department of Labor to see what rules apply for your location.

I just received a summons to appear for jury duty. Does my employer have to give me time off?

Yes. Both federal and state laws require that employers give their employees time off in order to meet their civic duty of sitting on a jury. In fact, if you are called to serve in a federal court, your employer cannot fire or threaten you for attending federal jury service. Most states also have similar types of protections for potential jurors.

Does this mean my employer has to pay me for my jury service?

The answer to this depends. If you are an exempt employee and the jury service lasts less than a week, you must be paid your full salary under the FLSA.

If you are nonexempt, no such requirement exists. However, if you live in New York, Massachusetts or Connecticut, you may be entitled to pay from your employer for a limited period of time. Check with your state Department of Labor.

TIP: No state provides for paid leave in the case of inclement weather. Check with your employer to see what the company's notice and closing procedures may be.

An employee just informed me that her brother passed away. Do I have to give her leave to attend the funeral?

There are no state or federal requirements that require an employer to provide funeral or bereavement leave. From a practical perspective, an employer would be viewed as cold-hearted if it did not allow this time off. Depending on the economics of your company, this leave, which is typically 2 to 5 days, can be with or without pay.

TIP: Most companies that provide pay for this type of leave have a policy that specifies which relations are covered. More often than not, payment is limited to the immediate family (i.e., parents, siblings or children).