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Working During Meal Breaks. Employers Must Pay for Interrupted Breaks

When employees are not completely relieved of duty during a meal break, employers must pay for interrupted breaks as work time. Federal labor laws do not require meal or rest breaks, however, state labor laws may. 

Bona fide meal periods typically last at least 30 minutes, are not considered work time, and are not included in the sum of hours worked during the work week to determine if overtime pay is due. However, where the meal period is cut short and/or interrupted and the employee must return to work (performing any duties – including answering phones, filing, or otherwise working while eating), an employer must ensure that the worker is back “on the clock” as soon as work begins. Failing to do so, results in “off the clock” work and wage theft.

A common problem that leads to a claim for unpaid wages and overtime is the automatic deduction of a full break period (typically 1 hour), even though the employee was not actually relieved of all duties for the entire period. 

Case In Point:  California based Securitas Security Services paid in excess of $176,000 to resolve claims that it failed to properly track and compensate certain airport security employees for time worked during unpaid meal breaks. These employees claimed that meal breaks were frequently interrupted by the need to go back to work at the airport, and that the company automatically recorded full meal breaks as time not worked, even when breaks were cut short by being called back to work.

Similar automatic deduction for full break period issues commonly arise in the medical / healthcare, technology, and office / administrative fields. 

“We are committed to ensuring that employers pay workers all the wages they have legally earned”

In cases where workers sue their employers for failing to pay them for missed or interrupted meal breaks, they seek to recover not only back wages, but liquidated (double) damages as well as state law penalties, costs and attorneys’ fees.  

Have You Been Unfairly Denied Pay for Meal Breaks?

Because of the strict time limits imposed by the overtime pay laws, procrastination can be costly. If you have any doubts as to whether you have been properly and fully paid for missed or interrupted meal breaks, and your possible entitlement to overtime pay for such time, contact the experts at The Lore Law Firm for a free and confidential review.

Call 1-866-559-0400 or submit your information using our convenient Case Evaluation form for a FREE and CONFIDENTIAL review of your circumstances – because time is money.