Labor laws exist throughout the nation to protect workers from abusive working conditions, prevent child labor, provide a safe and healthful workplace, and to avoid excessive hours. State-specific employment laws require employers to provide a 30-minute continuous uninterrupted break for employees scheduled to work 7.5 hours or more a day. However, certain exceptions apply. For example, breaks are not allowed if they interfere with public health and safety, only one employee performs the duties, or fewer than five employees work a shift.
Last year, a WaWa employee, who was not provided with a lunch break, asked his boss about it. His store’s policy provided workers 15-minute paid breaks for every four hours worked, which could be cut short based on staffing needs. Instead of addressing the question, his boss initiated a disciplinary action. He gave the employee a written reprimand accusing him of gossiping about the issue of getting a 30-minute lunch break.
The employee used appropriate channels to approach the employer about receiving a 30-minute lunch break by speaking to someone at the Human Resources Department. No one returned his call. Finally, he made an internal ethics complaint with the company about not receiving a response to his initial inquiries. The employee was fired four days before Christmas. WaWa’s reasoning for the firing was inconsistent and ranged from accusing him of stealing to mishandling food. However, the employee did qualify for unemployment due to being fired without just cause.
Retaliatory Actions and Wrongful Termination are Illegal
It is unclear whether the WaWa employee was entitled to a 30-minute lunch break, but an employer cannot retaliate against an employee for raising legitimate workplace concerns. There are labor laws in place to protect whistleblowers, who are employees that raise concerns about working conditions, such as timed breaks or protection from unsafe working conditions. Whistleblowers perform a valuable function that both employees and employers can benefit from. Neither retaliation nor termination are appropriate ways to address a whistleblower’s concerns, as both actions are illegal.
The National Labor Relations Board, a Federal agency that oversees enforcement of certain labor laws, has been working to negotiate a settlement of this case. WaWa offered to give the employee back pay provided he waives his right to seek his old job back. The employee rejected the offer and negotiations are ongoing.
Delaware County Employment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Protect Employees’ Rights
If you have been retaliated against for raising a concern about your working conditions, or if you have been fired and think you may be the victim of wrongful termination, talk to an experienced Delaware County employment lawyer at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Our employment lawyers understand complex labor laws and can evaluate your options for moving forward. Call us at 215-569-1999 or submit an online contact form. Our Philadelphia office serves clients from the surrounding areas, including Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.