Occasionally, we get calls from potential clients who are wondering whether or not meal breaks are pair or not. This is how it generally works. If an hourly employee works more than five hours in a single day, that employee is entitled to a 30 minute uninterrupted meal break. Thus, the typical full time hourly employee works eight hours in a single day, and thus that employee is entitled to a 30 minute uninterrupted meal break. However, unlike rest breaks, a meal break does not count as part of the hours worked and thus a lunch break is not compensable if the employee is relieved of all duty during that period.
So this leads to the next question, what if my employer interrupts me during my meal break and has me do work? It is unlawful for the employer to interrupt your meal break. So if an employer has an employee work during his or her meal break, that employee must be paid for it. For example, a secretary eats lunch at her desk, and while the secretary does not do any substantive work, he or she still covers and answers the phone and deals. Because the secretary is not relieved of all duty and is interrupted via incoming calls, the employer must pay the secretary for answering calls. If you take a lunch break, yet still do work during it, and your employer has not paid you, you may be entitled to penalties and compensation.
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