An employee who fails to follow her employer’s “reasonable” system for reporting missed or interrupted meal breaks cannot recover overtime damages for such time under the FLSA, absent evidence that the employer prevented her from using the system, the Sixth Circuit ruled yesterday.

First, the court found that the employer’s system for reporting missed or interrupted meal breaks was reasonable.  Specifically, the employee handbook, a copy of which was provided to the employee, stated that employees working shifts of six or more hours would receive an unpaid meal break that was automatically deducted from their pay checks.  However, if a meal break was missed or interrupted because of a work related reason, the employee would be compensated for the time, provided the employee recorded such time in an “exception log.”

Second, the court found that the employee unreasonably failed to follow these time reporting procedures by deciding not to complete the required “exception logs,” thereby preventing the employer from knowing its obligation to compensate her and thwarting its ability to comply with the FLSA.  Although the employee occasionally told her supervisors that she was not getting her meal breaks, the court noted that she never told her supervisors that she was not being compensated for missing her meal breaks. The court distinguished situations where the employer prevented employees from reporting overtime or were otherwise notified of the employees’ unreported work.