State-mandated breaks for workers pushed - East Valley Tribune: Business

State-mandated breaks for workers pushed

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Posted: Wednesday, February 6, 2008 6:08 pm | Updated: 8:44 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

An Arizona House bill requiring employers to give their workers breaks for lunch and rest has drawn the ire of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

According to HB2576, written by Rep. Margaret “Lynne” Pancrazi, D-Yuma, employers would allow each employee to take at least a 30-minute lunch break per eight hours of labor and at least one 10-minute rest period during every four hours of labor performed.

The employer could not deduct any wages from the employee for the breaks.

The bill has been assigned to the House Commerce Committee.

Exceptions would include a location where only one person is employed and employees who are covered under a collective bargaining agreement.

Pancrazi said she knows of teachers who aren’t given 30-minute, duty-free lunches and bathroom breaks in the morning and afternoon, and that is the reason she introduced the legislation.

“The majority of employers do it anyway, if they care about their employees,” she said. “Personally I didn’t think it was that big of an issue, but the chamber is feeling that it is being mandated.”

In his weekly commentary, Glenn Hamer, the chamber’s president and CEO, said there’s nothing wrong with employees taking breaks at work, but “it shouldn’t be government’s job to decide when.”

The legislation is a “blatant” overreach of the state into private business operations, and employees are free to pursue other jobs if the ones they have don’t meet their needs, Hamer said.

He also cites existing federal law that ensures employers pay for rest periods.

“Before employees start taking state-scheduled bathroom breaks, let’s end this type of overregulation on business,” Hamer said.

Most businesses don’t have a problem with such a requirement, Pancrazi said.

“It’s not a malicious bill,” she said. “It’s maybe for people who are coming new to the state to maybe realize our state appreciates and respects their employees and wants to make sure the needs of the employees are met, and that would include good working conditions and being able to have a break to go to the bathroom and 30 minutes for lunch.”

Rep. Barbara McGuire, D-Kearny, is a sponsor and said she understands the need for productivity, but that this constitutes basic humane treatment of workers.

If employers don’t want to give their workers these breaks, “they need to go after robotics. Robots don’t need food, water and rest.”

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