Working Through Lunch?
As an attorney, I frequently find myself working through my lunch or eating while I work. Generally, this is due to necessity because of deadlines approaching or because of a need to incessantly catch up on work from being out of the office for whatever reason. Unfortunately, too many people can probably relate to the feeling of being behind on work as well as my experience of working through lunch. An important difference to make, however, is that as an attorney, I am (1) paid on a salary basis for all of my hours worked and (2) rightfully classified as an exempt employee under the learned professional exemption of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"). Therefore, it is okay if I work through my lunch because my salary is designed to compensate me for every minute that I work, even if it's during my lunch. For many many other jobs though, especially any job that you are paid an hourly wage, if you work through your lunch or eat at your desk while doing work - even paperwork - then you NEED to be compensated by your employer. It's the law!
Although federal and many states' laws do not require a mandatory lunch or meal break, they all require that an employee get paid for all compensable worktime, which is any time that an employee is doing work for an employer's benefit. Therefore, if you're an hourly employee and you do work during your lunch break - including training - then your employer is lawfully required to pay you for that time. Too often, employers are simply automatically deducting 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or even 60 minutes per day from an employee's daily worktime without any regard for whether the employee actually took the lunch break or whether the employee continued to work through the break or ate while working. If you are paid an hourly wage instead of a salary AND your employer is automatically deducting lunch or meal time from your daily work schedule when you are generally doing paperwork, attending a training meeting or course, answering phones, or working in any way, then you should absolutely contact any attorney to find out about your rights. Whether you are a nurse, firefighter, receptionist, telemarketer, secretary, customer service representative, store clerk, assistant manager, paralegal, police officer, teacher's aide, mechanic, technician, etc. etc. - you should be paid for every minute or every day that you spend working. If you haven't been, then give PBM attorneys a call to discuss your options.