Most full-time New York workers need to take a lunch break at some point in their day. Lunch breaks typically last between 30 minutes and an hour, and they are different from the shorter rest breaks that may be offered throughout the day. While short breaks are always paid for, lunch breaks may not be compensable.
According to the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York State Labor Law, employees must be compensated for all of the time that they work. A lunch break could be considered “work time” if an employee is restricted in their activities. For example, an employee should be paid for their lunch period if the employee is required to eat their lunch in uniform and on the work site and may be suddenly called to perform work duties, or if the employee stays at their desk and performs work during their lunch period and the Company is aware that the employee is doing so.
Some employees are asked to “clock out” during their lunch period because the down time is not compensable. These employees should be freer in their activities and movements than employees that are paid for their lunch break. An employee who is not paid for the time that they spend having lunch may be able to leave the work site, run personal errands and change out of their work uniform.
Employees who believe that their employer is not compensating them for all of their working hours may want to talk to a lawyer about their concerns. A lawyer may be able to investigate the situation and determine whether the employer violated any wage and hour laws. If an employer has not compensated their employees properly, the employees that lost money may be able to pursue appropriate legal action for the lost wages.