Leaving the Facility on Paid 15 Minute Break

I'm hoping some one can enlighten me. The company is in Michigan (GO PISTONS). We currently give all our employees a 15 mnute paid break. They are not required to punch in and out for this break. Here's my situation. I just discovered that I have a number of employees that are leaving to go run errands, get breakfast, ect. while on break. (My gut tells me this is not a good situation). My payroll administrator said they are punching in and out for these occasions. He said that I can not mandate where they spend their break time. I'm thinking he is wrong, as I am paying them for this time. I feel we are setting ourselves up for a lawsuit if some one is in an accident if we are paying them, even if they did punch out. Please enlighten me. Share your wisdom and knowledge in this area.


  • 14 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • While they are on your payroll, they are under your control. They shouldn't be clocking in or out to run errands. The "free to leave" time is lunch time, typically unpaid.
  • The payroll administrator is generally incorrect. If you are paying for the rest/break time, you're able to define when, where and how..... Permitting employees to leave the org during this "break" is a very poor decision. Gillian3 is correct...............
  • Not sure about MI, but I suspect it is similar to my state, as most comp laws tend to be. If this were to happen in TN and the employee was in an accident you would absolutely be on the hook.

    As other posters have stated, you have the right to dictate how, when and where these breaks are conducted.

  • I agree with the previous posts. If you don't have a policy that includes this (it's in our Personal Conduct policy), I suggest you draft one and pass it out pronto. 15 minute breaks are generally paid; they do not generally include permission to leave the premises, clock out or not. You do have liability if an accident occurs in this situation. Cover yourselves. Make it clear in writing that leaving the premises on a paid break is not allowed with discipline up to termination. Don't just stick the new/amended policy on the intranet, put it in an employee email or newsletter.
  • We don't allow employees to leave the facility during break time. If they have to leave the facility for any reason, they clock out and it's their own time.

    We have more of a problem with employees "sneaking" out of the building without clocking in and out to get food, etc. We have caught several trying to come up the back stairs with fast food.
  • The breaks for our employees are paid and as such they are not permitted to leave the premises. They can go to their vehicles, etc. but cannot leave our property. All new employees are advised of this on their first day of work and if an employee is found to be leaving the premises during their break they are disciplined. Your payroll administrator is incorrect in that you cannot dictate where they spend their breaktime when you are paying them.
  • We had the same thing happen and changed it really quickly when we found out they were leavings the premises. Their paid break time must be on the premises and once in a great while they don't even get one if we're super busy (we're not union). They were told the reasons why they couldn't leave & if they do it now they get a verbal warning.
  • We (on the other hand) allow our ee's to leave the buildings for their paid breaks. We are located smack dab in the middle of downtown. Directly across the street is drug store with an ole fashioned soda fountain, next to it is a new StarBucks coffee shop with all kinds of goodies, two doors up is "Mom's restaurant" serving breakfast and lunch blue plate specials, half a dozen doors up is another speciality coffee shop, and on the same side of the street and three doors up is an all you can get Chinese buffet. Actually within a two block area there are at least a dozen places to get snacks or have a complete meal. With so many places so close to our doors we have gone so far as to remove the soda and snack machines for our down town locations and encourage our ee's to visit our local down town merchants, who just happen to be our customers. Several of our ee's will call ahead and then just walk across the street and pick up their snacks or lunch.
    To each his own.... as they say in the RE business: location, location, location.
    By the way, Mom's makes the best pies!!!!
  • May I suggest you make contact with your liability carrier. In our case if someone is on the clock and out doing business for our company then we are liable. If out doing business for the company and stops by the "little go bar" for snacks, then we are liable. On the other hand if the ee is clocked out and on an authorized absents for what ever period of time on personal business, we are not liable.

    The facts are in your policy.

  • I agree with most of the other responders... If they are on the clock, they are your employees and should be on your property, unless they are "running an errand for you". W/C and liability would and could occur. One other thing that most people haven't mentioned. I have found that if people leave, they don't get back in 15 minutes.
    E Wart
  • I know it is really late to be adding this post but I thought someone might be interested in this. We had an hourly employee go from one location to another location just across the street. She went the long route so she could go to the convenience store and get coffee. Unfortunately for her, she fell off the curb and was injured enough to require an ambulance. Our workers comp carrier denied the claim because she did not take the direct route to the other location. They did not care if she was punched in or out. (She was punched in.) You never know sometimes...
  • I don't know about VT's WC laws. What the carrier says or does is really irrelevant. If this were to happen in TN, Plaintiff's counsel would BBQ us and the carrier in molasses.

    I hope this goes away quietly for you but I wouldn't bet on it.

    Good luck and let us know how it turns out.

  • It's been over a year and she hasn't taken any action. She is a long-term employee (28 years). It would not be her style to contest the WC carrier decision. I agree with you 100%. Interestingly, I was on vacation when this happened and couldn't believe it wasn't treated as a WC claim. Of course, that was upon the advice of the WC carrier!!
  • That's great news. She certainly may be in the generation that does not believe their ticket to ride should be paid for on the someone else's back.
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