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Meal periods

We have an hourly employee who wants to work through her 30-minute unpaid lunch break so that she can be paid for it. Or, she’d like to take lunch for 15 minutes and be paid for the other 15 minutes. Is this legal?

Federal law does not require meal periods or rest breaks. However, when employers offer short breaks usually 20 minutes or less in duration, federal law considers the breaks as compensable work hours. The time would be included in the sum of hours worked during the work week and considered in determining if overtime hours were worked. Bona fide meal periods usually at least 30 minutes in duration are not work time and are not compensable.

Some states have adopted meal period or rest break laws. Some of which expressly prohibit an employee from working through a legally required meal period. Thus, it’s important to know if state legislation applies. Please feel free to re-post the question with the state listed and we can research the applicable law.

Additionally, meal periods or rest breaks are often required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or Department of Transportation for certain job classifications due to safety reasons.

Absent state law and other regulatory agency regulations, it’s permissible for an employee to not take a meal period or rest break. However, if the employer chooses to implement a policy on meal periods or rest breaks, it’s within in rights to enforce the policy.

This entry was posted on Sunday, August 10th, 2014 at 11:01 am and is filed under
Human Resources Management.
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