Should I Get Paid to Work Through Lunch?

December 11, 2013

Federal law requires that employers pay employees for all hours they work. This includes the hour or half hour spent working during lunch. While many employees work through their lunch, many are not paid for this time.

How employees are paid for their lunch time depends on their pay agreement with their employers. For example, employees who are exempt from overtime because of so-called white-caller exemptions from overtime are not entitled to any additional pay if they work through lunch. These employees have an implicit or explicit agreement that they receive a salary for all hours worked, not matter how many hours.

Most employees, however, are not exempt from overtime rules. In the modern workplace, there are economic and technological pressures to increase productivity by working all the time. This often means that employees perform work during lunch. According to USA Today, eating through lunch is an unfortunate sign of the times. Employees who remain on email, eat at their desks, or take cellular phone calls during their lunch time, are entitled to be paid for that time.

Some employers are bold enough to program time keeping software to automatically deduct 30 minutes to an hour for lunch each day, whether or not employees actually take the time off. This results in a 37.5 hour workweek, even if the employer has benefitted from the extra time its employees spend on the clock.

he best rule of thumb on deciding whether a lunch hour should be paid time is that workers should be paid unless the employer provides a space away from the working environment to take lunch and employees actually eat their lunch there. If employees eat at their desks, as many employees do, they are generally entitled to be paid.

So, are you entitled to be paid when you work through your lunch? Yes, you are.

To get answers to this or any other question regarding your rights under federal or state wage and hour laws, including overtime pay, contact the lawyers at Parks, Chesin & Walbert, where we have over 40 years of experience helping workers and their employers follow the law.

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