Meal Breaks

Rest periods of short duration, usually 20 minutes or less, are common in industry and are customarily paid for as working time.  These short periods must be counted as hours worked. Unauthorized extensions of authorized work breaks need not be counted as hours worked when the employer has expressly and unambiguously communicated to the employee that the authorized break may only last for a specific length of time, that any extension of the break is contrary to the employer's rules, and any extension of the break will be punished.

Bona fide meal breaks (typically 30 minutes or more) generally need not be compensated as work time.  The employee must be completely relieved from duty for the purpose of eating regular meals. The employee is not relieved if he/she is required to perform any duties, whether active or inactive while eating.

For example, an office employee who is required to eat at his desk or a factory worker who is required to be at his machine is working while eating.  Therefore, he or she must be paid for such time and it cannot be deducted as a meal break or lunch.

Typical Problems

Many employers automatically deduct meal breaks from employees' time sheets, even though the employees do not take bona fide meal breaks, either because they are not completely relieved of work duty, or because such breaks are less than 30 minutes long.  As a result, such employees are not compensated for all of their hours worked. 

Many employers require employees to clock out for a full hour, even though they are taking a shorter meal break (30 minutes).  In such instances, the extra 30 minutes deducted is work time and not a meal break, and typically the employers' failure to include such time in determining the employees compensable time is a violation of law.

If you believe your employer is improperly deducting meal breaks from your hours and pay, call 1-888-OVERTIME [888-683-7846] or click here for a free consultation today.

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