Are you an hourly employee that works through your lunch break? Federal wage and hour law does not require employers to give employees lunch breaks; however, the laws of some states require that lunch breaks be provided. In either case, hourly employees who are given lunch breaks and are required to clock out for those breaks must be allowed to take an actual break in which they are relieved of all work-related duties.
In order for an employer to deduct a meal break from your total time worked, you must be “completely relieved of duty.” Eating at your desk while working is not a deductible break – rather, that is work time. We hear from employees whose employers expect them to clock out for a lunch break and then continue to work while eating at their desks, eat quickly and then return to work while still off the clock, or are called out of the break room to perform work. We also hear from employees whose employers deduct pay for lunch breaks their employees did not take. However, even if you only work through an unpaid lunch break a couple of times a week, the lost wages can add up quickly. Often, as in the case of an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. employee who has to clock out for a one-hour lunch break, the wages lost are overtime hours for which they should be paid time and a half.
As an example, suppose an employee who earns $15 per hour worked 40 hours per week on the clock plus worked off-the-clock through their lunch break for one hour two days per week. Over the course of a year, the employee has lost over $2,340 in unpaid wages, or 7.5% of their annual pay. Over 3 years, the amount of wages lost wages is $7,020. Under the law, employees who claim unpaid wages are normally entitled to recover double the amount of their unpaid wages, meaning that the employee in the example could recover over $14,000 for their two missed lunch breaks per week. If the employee worked during unpaid lunch breaks more often than two days per week, potential damages are even higher.
If you are one of the many employees who have lost wages due to unpaid and untaken lunch breaks, we can help. The law requires employers who violate federal wage law to pay the employees’ attorneys’ fees and costs, so we can represent you without any costs or fees paid by you. Call us today at (800) 616-4000 for a free consultation.
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Gregg Shavitz, Shavitz Law Group, 951 Yamato Rd Ste 285, Boca Raton, FL and 830 3rd Ave, Floor 5, New York, NY. Lawyers licensed in states including FL, NY, NJ, and TX. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based on advertisements alone.