What Are You Doing for Lunch?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to compensate employees for every hour worked, and at the rate of 1.5 times the employees’ regular wages for overtime. But does lunch time count as work time? The answer depends upon what the employees are doing during their lunch period.

In a recent case in Michigan, a group of security guards sued their employer for unpaid overtime. The guards each worked five eight-hour shifts per week and were also required to attend a 15-minute briefing each morning. The guards sought overtime pay for the time spent in morning briefings, but the court denied that request because their lunch period did not constitute work time and could therefore be subtracted from the total hours worked, thus leaving them under the 40-hour threshold for overtime pay. The court noted the following factors as important in deciding whether a lunch period should be considered work time or leisure time:

  • What work duties, if any, do employees have during their lunch period?
  • How often are employees interrupted for work purposes during their lunch period?
  • Are employees free to move about and/or leave the premises of the employer during the lunch period?

Employees who enjoy wide latitude to socialize or to engage in leisure activities during their lunch can be considered “off the clock” during those periods. So long as an employee can pursue his or her mealtime adequately and comfortably and is not engaged in the performance of any substantial work duties during these times, the employee is not entitled to compensation under the FLSA. The determination as to whether any break period should be compensated should be made based upon the totality of the circumstances.

If you have questions or concerns about whether break periods should be included in hours worked at your place of employment, please feel free to give us a call at (248) 477-6300. We’re happy to help!

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