While we may all take our lunch break for granted, the truth is that federal law doesn’t require our employer to permit one. In reality, it’s only state laws that mandate lunch breaks. Each state is a little different in its mandates, so just because you may be entitled to a lunch break in California, it doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed one in another state.
A look at the federal law
The Fair Labor Standards Act is the federal legislation that covers wage and hour violations. While it’s not illegal in a federal sense, your employer can make you work over the lunch hour. However, federal laws mandate that each employee gets paid for the hours that he or she works. So, if your employer requires you to work through your lunch break, you must be paid to do so.
A look at the state law
The state mandates are where you’ll find the most precise information regarding mandatory on-call lunch breaks. Each state specifies its laws differently. For example, in California, an employer must provide an employee with a meal break of 30 minutes after five full hours of working. You should contact an attorney to help determine the specific laws that govern your state.
Does being on call classify as work?
Under federal laws, meal periods are defined as those that completely relieve an employee from work duties. The reality is that if you’re on call, you’re not completely relieved of your employment duties. Therefore, your employer must compensate you for being on call.
When it comes to lunch breaks, many of us believe we’re entitled to them without having to worry about work. In reality, this isn’t always true; the rule depends on the state where you’re working. It’s a good idea to check with a lawyer to determine whether or not lunch breaks are mandatory in your state.