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Is it Legal to Automatically Deduct Employee Lunch Time?

A man and a woman drinking coffee

Lunchtime can be a tricky thing to track. Some employees forget to clock out, adding minutes to their paychecks daily, while others forget to clock back into work once they return. This leads to inaccurate timestamps and, even worse, inaccurate payroll. You will end up either overpaying employees or underpaying employees, which can lead to issues down the line. In order to keep timestamps more accurate, some employers choose to implement automatic lunch deductions for hourly employees. This ensures that employees get lunch breaks deducted, no matter the circumstance. This is great for employers who want to avoid overpaying employees, but many people still have questions about the legality of lunch deductions. 

Are automatic lunch deductions legal?

Yes! According to the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), it is legal for employers to automatically deduct lunch time. That is, of course, if the employee actually takes lunch. The federal government actually doesn’t have any rules when it comes to break times; they only want employers to track employee’s hours accurately. This means that an employer must track all hours worked as well as any work performed during lunch (if applicable). 

State laws and lunchtime deduction policy

Although the federal government doesn’t require any meal or break periods, state governments have their own break laws. For instance, California labor laws require that employers provide employees with a meal period of no less than a 30-minute when they work more than five (5) consecutive hours. Meanwhile in Montana, they do not have any laws requiring an employer to provide a meal period or breaks to employees, so the federal rule applies. States have varying laws, so you’ll want to check to see what rules your business has to follow. When creating your meal or break time policy, keep your state’s laws in mind.

FLSA and DOL break time deduction rules

If you end up giving your employees break and meal times, you do have to follow FLSA regulations. Although they don’t require break time, they still have certain guidelines that you must follow:

  • Rest periods are usually 20 minutes or less. Small break periods like these are typically paid and count as hours worked.
  • Bona fida break periods (30 minutes or more) generally do not count as hours worked. Therefore, you do not need to compensate the hours and minutes spent on break.
  • Break time only counts when the employee is relieved from all work duties. If the employee is required to perform work duties, it does not count as a break.

Why an employer shouldn’t automatically deduct lunch time

Although automatic lunch deductions are a convenient way to track breaks, it’s not always the best idea. Here’s why:

  1. If employees aren’t aware that break times are automatically deducted, they may clock out for break in addition to the automatic deduction. This means that the employee could have two break periods on their timesheet for a given workday. Clearly communicate that the break time is automatic on days automatic break periods are applied. 
  2. An employee who works through a break period is not on technically on break, which invalidates the break period. The employee would end up not getting paid for hours they worked, which may lead to underpaying staff.
  3. Employees may take breaks for a shorter or longer duration than the allotted break time. If this happens, their automatic break time is invalid because it doesn’t truly reflect their hours. For an employer, this means that they will end up either overpaying or underpaying an employee. Additionally, the employer may need to make manual adjustments to timesheets.
  4. If an employee feels as though their lunch time has not been accurately tracked, they can start an investigation with the DOL. This can lead to penalties for the employer.

How to make sure that you’re prepared

Employers will want to make sure that they are following all state and federal government rules, that way they don’t face any trouble with the DOL and FLSA. Additionally, employers will want to create a clear meal and break time policy that employees understand. When employees understand the process, it’s more likely that time will be tracked accurately. Lastly, if an employer decides to implement automatic lunch deductions, make sure that the time keeping system has an audit trail to show all timestamp records and lunch deductions. It’s the best way to ensure that all records are transparent for the employee and employer – and to steer clear of legal trouble. 

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  1. Crystal Tidwell
    Crystal Tidwell February 28, 2020

    We are only allowed a 30 min lunch break. Our employer told us that if we forget to clock out then they are gonna take an hour from our pay. Is this legal?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers February 28, 2020

      Your employer is responsible for making sure that employees are tracking time accurately. If you do not clock out for lunch, your employer should record your lunch time accurately on your timesheet; however, they should not adjust your lunch break to an inaccurate time. As an employee, you are supposed to get paid for all hours and minutes that you work. If you take a 35 minute break in which you forget to clock out, and your employer decides to knock off an full hour, your employer is not paying your for 25 minutes that you actually worked. Your employer has to track your time correctly and pay you accordingly. If I were you, I would speak with my labor board to clarify what the rules are. If you feel that it’s necessary, you can start an investigation with the DOL:

  2. Jonas Troyer
    Jonas Troyer March 20, 2020

    Where do we find that setting option to automatically deduct 30 minutes for lunch. I can’t find it anymore.

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers March 20, 2020

      Hi, there. As an administrator, log into your account and go to the Dashboard. Click on the gear icon next to the employee’s name and go to the Options tab within the employee’s settings. Scroll down to section 4 and change settings in 4-D. You can set up the automatic lunch deductions based on your preferences. Make sure that you click save, and that’s it!

  3. Ronald Nelson
    Ronald Nelson April 8, 2020

    What happens if your boss clocks you out for lunch that you work thru and you get injured in that time?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers April 9, 2020

      Hi Ronald. First, I want to note that an employer is supposed to accurately track your break time according to the federal government. If you’re working through your break, then it’s not considered a true break period in most states. You’ll most likely receive compensation from your employer if you bring this to the Department of Labor. In regards to an injury at work, I certainly recommend consulting with an accident injury attorney.

  4. Ashley Rose
    Ashley Rose April 21, 2020

    My employer takes 30 minutes each day i work off my pay for a lunch break but there has never been anyone to relieve me of my spot so im getting docked for 30 minutes that i dont get

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers April 24, 2020

      That’s not good! Your employer is responsible for ensuring that your time is tracked accurately for any meal breaks. If you aren’t taking proper meal breaks, there’s a potential that you may receive back pay. I recommend that you speak with the DOL or with an employment attourney to see what actions you can take.

  5. TNNT
    TNNT June 4, 2020

    If my TN employer states that I can take my 30 minute lunch break whenever I want, but I fail to take a break, can they still deduct 30 minutes from my timecard?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers June 6, 2020

      Under FLSA regulation, your employer must pay you for every hour and minute that you work; therefore, if you don’t take a lunch, your employer must compensate you for your hours. Additionally, TN state law’s website says “State law requires that employees must be provided a thirty (30) minute unpaid meal or rest period if scheduled six (6) consecutive hours, except in workplace environments that by their nature of business provides for ample opportunity to rest or take an appropriate break. An example would be a person employed in the food/beverage industry or security guards. The failure to provide a thirty (30) minute meal or rest period is a violation of state law. There are no state requirements for additional breaks.” You will want to talk to an HR professional about your situation.

    • Candy
      Candy March 2, 2021

      I work for a health care for profit company, we have a 30 minute lunch break deducted for every shift over 6 hours.
      We receive mileage pay to drive between clients. If we choose to take a lunch break they take away our mileage pay between clients which we need to pay for our gas expenses. Is this legal? I have to work an extra 30 minutes a day to pay for a break not taken.

      • Lindsay Sommers
        Lindsay Sommers March 3, 2021

        Hi Candy, I would recommend speaking with an HR rep who understands your state’s laws. Since you’re in healthcare, your state may have specific rules/regulations regarding breaks.

  6. Mason wallace
    Mason wallace June 16, 2020

    I work as a CNA, my coworkers and I are unable to take our 30 minute breaks so we can get all of our shift requirements completed. Our management has been changing our time clock and adding breaks for us everyday before the payroll goes out even though we worked for the breaks we aren’t actually taking.

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers June 22, 2020

      Without knowing what state you reside in, I can’t necessarily give you a direct answer; however, I will say that most states have their own break and overtime laws. There’s a possibility that the state you reside in doesn’t allow employers to record your breaks that way. Additionally, the FLSA requires employers to accurately track employees’ time for payroll. If they’re aren’t doing that correctly, they might be in the wrong. I would suggest that you speak with your local labor board or HR department to better understand how the meal break laws work in your state.

    • daniel quinonez
      daniel quinonez May 21, 2021

      can employers deduct lunch from overtime pay periods.

      • Lindsay Sommers
        Lindsay Sommers May 24, 2021

        That depends on if the employee actually took their lunch periods. If an employee took their meal breaks and didn’t properly record their meal breaks on their timesheet, then a deduction is allowed– this is, of course, only if your state allows this too.

  7. rs
    rs June 23, 2020

    We have techs who work onsite at various customer locations or who are sometimes working at the office. They are required to take an unpaid 30 minute break. a short paid morning and afternoon break, and we have reiterated this time and time again. On almost a daily basis, they “forget” to take the break or they “forget” to clock out. Because they are in the field and are under no direct supervisor to say “take your breaks now”, we are at a loss as to how to treat this. We have a few who clock overtime for the day because they haven’t clocked out for their lunch, but again, we don’t have eyes on them to make sure they are/aren’t actually taking the break. Can we set it as a requirement in our handbook that we will automatically clock out a lunch break from 12-12:30 for all employees and that they are required to take that break? That if for any reason they didn’t, they are to let their supervisor know when the break was actually taken? Really would like to put the own-ness on them for taking these breaks.

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers July 2, 2020

      I would suggest that you ask an HR specialist who understands your state’s laws better when you create your policy. There are some states that don’t necessarily fault the employer if the employee doesn’t clock out for lunch or doesn’t take lunch, so there’s a chance that your state may have the same rules; however, you want to make sure you’re protected properly. I don’t know what time tracking system you use, but actually has overtime controls for this specific situation. You can ensure that employees can’t clock in or out after/before a certain time, and you can even turn on automatic lunch deductions as well– that way your employees won’t collect copious amounts of overtime.

  8. Jessica M
    Jessica M June 25, 2020

    Our employer states that we use our lunch break as a way to make up time if per say we arrived late to work, therefor if we clock in anytime before we reached our 1 hr break time, they adjust our time sheets to state we took a full hour for lunch when we might have only taken 40 to 50 minutes instead. For example, i stay in the office for lunch, i do take my break but most of the time i feel rushed by my employer to clock back in and work only because i stayed in the office. Or if I just finished my lunch and have nothing else to do, to which i do end up clocking in before the full hour but then i get docked for the full hour even though i did not do so. Is this illegal?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers July 2, 2020

      You’re supposed to get paid for the hours you work under FLSA rules. That being said, if your time is reported inaccurately, that might be a problem. Do you have an HR representative you can speak with about this at your company? They might be able to explain to you how exactly this policy works or if it’s legal in your state/city.

  9. Emily
    Emily July 24, 2020

    I’ve recently been hired. I’ve noticed that we seem understaffed and no one takes their lunches or breaks. I’m in Oregon. I was supposed to work 3:30p-9p(my hours have now increased) but I usually end up working past 9(usually 9:30-10) because of how busy it is. I’m concerned because 1) I’m used to taking lunches and breaks to recharge
    (2) If I were to take them I’m afraid of looking lazy
    (3) Again no one seems to take their breaks or lunches because of how busy it is in correlation to how many people we have working.
    (4) I’m not sure if I get paid for lunch breaks when I have worked past 9 or if I will be for my new hours.
    (5) This place seems so busy(it does have it’s down times but then I’m busy doing work)and we’re understaffed
    (6)I dont want to come across as digging for money or a trouble maker but how do I make sure I get paid if I dont take my lunch?
    (7) I don’t think we have an HR department

    How do I bring these concerns up? I know they’ve posted a help wanted sign online and a physical one. But how do I go about asking about breaks without being a know it all, looking for more money, or trying to cause problems?

    I asked if I got paid for lunches but it’s usually too busy to take a full 30. Was that the wrong way to start?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers July 30, 2020

      Hi Emily. I want to start by letting you know that I’m not an HR expert in Oregon, so I suggest that you speak with an HR expert who understands the laws and can give you valuable legal advice. I’ll still give you some thoughts: I’m sorry to hear about your troubles at work. It’s sometimes difficult to bring up these conversations with your employer because you’re afraid of how you might come across, but truthfully, it’s your legal right to get these breaks so you shouldn’t be embarrassed or nervous to bring this up. I want to start by saying that employees in Oregon are legally allowed to have two (or more) 10-minute paid breaks and one (or more) 30-minute unpaid meal break. You say that you’re working 3:30pm to ~10pm– that’s 7 hours. You’re entitled to a 30-minute break at least 2 hours after your shift starts, but prior to the 5th hour you work. Under the general rule, you should get your meal break; however, there are exceptions… One of those exceptions to the 30-minute break rule is the Oregon law that states “Providing a 30-minute, unpaid meal period where the employee is relieved of all duties would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business. When an employer can demonstrate that providing an employee a meal period would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business and does not provide the full 30-minute meal period, employees must still be provided with adequate time to consume a meal, rest and use the restroom, and must be paid for this time, in addition to being provided all rest periods required by law for the number of hours worked in any given shift. In addition, the employer must give notice to each employee affected by the undue hardship provision on a form prescribed by BOLI and maintain a copy of the notice for the duration of the employee’s employment and for at least six months after the termination date of the employee.” If your break time causes the business a hardship your employer can choose to axe your break, but they must prove that it does actually cause a hardship. In addition to earning your breaks, I also want to point out that your employer is legally supposed to track your time correctly– including your breaks. You may want to make sure that your employer isn’t subtracting breaks from your paycheck that you’re not actually taking. Overall it’s your decision to ask your employer for a break, considering you’re most likely legally allowed to take your breaks. Make sure that you’re not coming across annoyed or disgruntled– just peacefully let your employer know that you need your time to re-charge. Be honest and your employer should understand where you’re coming from.

  10. Brandon G
    Brandon G August 12, 2020

    My employer just said if we take 30 mintue lunch, they will be docking us for a full hour. No ifs and or buts and if you dont like it to be fired immediately.

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers August 13, 2020

      I don’t know what state you’re in, but it’s likely that your state has rules regarding how your employer must record your break time. Some states, for instance, allow employers to record your break time and they won’t get penalized if it’s incorrect because it’s up to the employee to ensure the correct time is recorded. Under federal law, your employer must record your time correctly and must pay you for the exact hours you work. Check with your local labor board to see what your state’s break laws are.

  11. Landon S
    Landon S August 26, 2020

    PA. I work as a truck driver for the VVA. Can my employer auto deduct my lunch when I do not take my lunch siting that I get rest time while out on the road even though I am driving and picking up donations.

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers August 31, 2020

      Hi Landon, that’s a tricky one. Technically under Federal law, your employer must pay you for every hour you work, including any overtime. If your employer is deducting lunch time from your timesheet, he is not paying you correctly for your hours– which is a problem. The PA gov website only outlines the basic requirements for breaks by saying “Pennsylvania employers are required to provide break periods of at least 30 minutes for minors ages 14 through 17 who work five or more consecutive hours. Employers are not required to give breaks for employees 18 and over. If your employer allows breaks, and they last less than 20 minutes, you must be paid for the break. If your employer allows meal periods, the employer is not required to pay you for your meal period if you do not work during your meal period and it lasts more than 20 minutes. A collective bargaining agreement may also govern this issue.”. That being said, I suggest that you speak with your local labor board directly to get this situation clarified or speak with an HR rep who knows the PA law very well.

  12. Brandon Aguilar
    Brandon Aguilar August 28, 2020

    I currently am working for a medical transportation company when i first started they didnt dock us for lunch due to our schedules we rarely had time to even use the restroom let alone take a 30 minute lunch! The company recently started to use “ADP” which is a app that we use to clock in and out of cause there was no timestamp system whatsoever. So this company “ADP” also does our payroll, so they deduct 30 min for lunch but i never get to actually take it. From the moment i start my shift i am driving non stop my whole shift which consists of anywhere between 6 to 13 hours . Like i said i cant even stop to use the restroom literally no exaggeration! We have to many patients and not enough drivers so i am constantly in a rat race against the clock. The majority of my patients that i transport are on Dialysis so as you can imagine it is vital that i am as punctual as humanely possible. Which unfortunately is not good enough alot of the time. I am in the state of california where i know its a little more complex as far as breaks and lunches go compared to alot of other states. Is this legal? And in not what do i do?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers September 11, 2020

      Hi Brandon. The state of California requires employees to take a 30 minute break within the first 5 hours of their shifts, but employers aren’t technically required to ensure that work isn’t performed by the employee. Generally, the employer must relieve the employee of all work duties for 30 minutes, but there are exceptions when you’re in the health care industry. For instance, someone working in the healthcare field may be required to stay on the premises instead of having the ability to leave for lunch. As an employee, you are entitled to a lunch break. I suggest speaking with your HR representative at your workplace

  13. Ashley
    Ashley September 5, 2020

    Hi Lindsay,
    My workplace is deducting meal allowance from our paycheck each shift (I’m in NYC) but we were hardly being fed. Not everyday we receive food, sometimes we had to eat the leftover from days ago. I spoke to my sous chef asking if I could opt-out on family meal and she said she spoke to the chef and he told her I can’t. Is that true? I mean on my first day I did sign the paperwork and agreed to be deducted for meal but never knew I had to starve at work while they still deducting my paycheck for something I don’t get.
    Please guide me what I can do about this situation. Thank you.

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers September 11, 2020

      Hi Ashley, I would actually suggest that you speak with someone who understands NYC law very well, like an HR expert. They’ll be the best people to guide you as to what you can do.

  14. Anthony Minervini
    Anthony Minervini September 10, 2020

    I’m a furniture delivery guy and I’m always on the rd I never have time to stop and take a lunch as I have time windows I have to follow can my employer take 30 minutes out each day if I’m out on the road in the truck. I bring my lunch with me and eat as I go. I’m in South Carolina

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers September 11, 2020

      South Carolina does not have any laws requiring an employer to provide meal periods or breaks for their employees. That being said, the federal rule would apply. An employer can choose to give you breaks, and those breaks are paid when your break is 20 minutes or less, and your break is unpaid when your break is more than 30 minutes. Overall, your employer does not have to give you meal breaks. However, under federal law your employer must pay you for all hours worked, and a true break is when you’re relieved of all work duties. If you’re still working during your breaks, that’s technically not a break and you should be paid accordingly.

  15. magic
    magic September 16, 2020

    Can my employer only give me 30 minutes of lunch but take away a full hour of lunch by breaking it up and telling me I need to take from 10 o’clock to 10:10 a break if I need to use the restroom and so on

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers September 30, 2020

      Your employer’s duty is to pay you for the exact hours you work, meaning that they must give you the opportunity to track your time properly. Lunch time is a little different because some states don’t necessarily require employers to make sure that employees are actually taking their full breaks or not. That being said, you may live in a state where you are held responsible for your breaks and your employer isn’t held accountable. Regardless, you should check with your local labor board to review your break laws. If you have questions, you should try to speak with them or with the HR representative at your office.

    KEVIN STEWART September 25, 2020

    I have an employer that wants to give us a 90 minute break in the middle of the day so they can have us on set for 13.5 hours without OT. Is that legal?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers September 30, 2020

      Hi Kevin, I would suggest that you speak with an HR expert about your specific question.

  17. devD
    devD October 8, 2020

    I’m on a work visa and im salaried on a biweekly pay basis. No matter how many hours I work my pay still remains the same. On top of this, my employer started with the new rule that if someone misses punching for the time in or out for three consecutive times will result in suspension with no pay. Is it legally valid to do so?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers October 8, 2020

      Hi, that’s very interesting. You’re correct– since you’re salaried, you should get the same amount of pay no matter the quality or quantity of your work. According to the FLSA, your employer must pay you the same amount of pay regardless of the number of days or hours worked. They’re only allowed to deduct pay when you’re absent for one or more full days due to sickness or a disability, or if you take leave under the FMLA act. they can’t cut your pay retroactively, either. It sounds like your employer has potentially found a loophole to make this a legal action. I suggest that you speak with a legal expert to get sound advice.

  18. Jerry Schares
    Jerry Schares October 12, 2020

    At my trucking company we are paid hourly by electronic logs installed in all trucks. We are paid for ALL time on duty driving and/or on duty not driving. Recently the FMCSA hours of service rules changed to not being required to take a 30 minute (not paid) off duty break, to allowing us to take a required 30 minute break while still on duty which counts for our 30 minute (off duty break). During this period we may be just waiting for a relay driver to show up to inspecting and fueling the truck. Is the company required to pay us for those 30 minutes on duty not driving? And at some point (most importantly) could they legally (somehow someway come up with an excuse, reason, allowing them to deduct those 30 minutes from our pay check?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers October 20, 2020

      Hi Jerry. I’m unfortunately not familiar with the FMCSA rules. You may want to speak with an HR representative who understands it a bit better.

  19. Frankie Garcia
    Frankie Garcia October 24, 2020

    I’m in Chicago, I run a route all day my supervisor always puts that I took lunch from 12 to 1230 every day on my payroll time sheet. I never take a lunch as well as most of my fellow workers. As a matter of fact I’m usually at a stop or a clients building during those times my supervisor clicks me out I’m actually working. Any advise?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers October 29, 2020

      Hi Frankie, I can see how this can be a bit confusing. Under FLSA regulation, employers must pay for all hours an employee works, along with any overtime they earned. If the employee isn’t taking lunch breaks, then technically the employer shouldn’t put those on the timesheet. However, some states don’t necessarily hold the employer responsible for making sure that the employee is actually taking their breaks or not; therefore, if the employee isn’t taking breaks and the employer is subtracting meal time anyways, it’s not the employer’s fault. You should check the meal break laws with your Illinois local labor board or with the help of an HR expert.

  20. Leth Tolentino
    Leth Tolentino October 28, 2020

    What if his total work hours are only 6 is it still mandatory to deduct the 30 minutes break?

  21. Brittany Flogaus
    Brittany Flogaus October 28, 2020

    My husband worked 61 hours these last two weeks and they adjusted his time card to 57 hours for lunches he didn’t take. We are trying to figure out if they are in the wrong or not

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers October 29, 2020

      That depends on the state you live in. Under FLSA regulation, employers must pay for all hours an employee works, along with any overtime they earned. If the employee isn’t taking lunch breaks, then technically the employer shouldn’t put those on the timesheet. However, there is a loophole in some cases… for instance, some states don’t necessarily hold the employer responsible for making sure that the employee is actually taking their breaks or not; therefore, if the employee isn’t taking breaks and the employer is subtracting meal time anyways, it’s not the employer’s fault. You should check the meal break laws with your local labor board or with the help of an HR expert.

  22. BC
    BC November 5, 2020

    The place I work at we do not take breaks. There is no designated time we can take for a lunch break, we must eat on the job. I noticed they still take off 30mins for lunch. Our they allowed to do that?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers November 6, 2020

      That depends on your state law and what industry you’re in. Technically, a “break” would mean that you are relieved of all work duties, and if you’re working during those times, your employer must compensate you accordingly. I suggest that you speak with your HR specialist. If you don’t have one, speak with your local labor board to see what your state’s rules are.

  23. Bertha M Ramirez
    Bertha M Ramirez November 12, 2020

    Hello, I live in Texas Is it legal to work 8,10 ,12 hours without a lunch hour, just a 20 minutes break?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers November 12, 2020

      Hi Bertha. Texas technically doesn’t have any rules requiring employers to give their employees breaks, no matter how long their shifts are. However, you are protected if you’re under a contract that says otherwise. You can read more information about texas breaks here: I do suggest that you speak with your local labor board If you have further questions.

  24. Andy
    Andy February 16, 2021

    Hi I work 45 hours a week and my overtime starts after 40 hours I have half hour lunch a day my employer deducts the half out of my wages but he deducts it out of my overtime not my basic so if I do 5 hours overtime I only get paid for 2 and a half hours overtime not5 hours is this legal
    I’m in the Uk
    Thanks Andy

  25. Leigh Horton
    Leigh Horton February 28, 2021

    In an 8 1/2 hour workday my place of employment automatically takes out 30 minutes. They schedule how many rooms I have to have completed by 4 and with their schedule, I can not take a lunch break and complete the assignment. Although I have gotten a lunch break 1 hour before time to clock out for the 30 minutes they take out. What I needed to know is it legal to take out 30 minutes a day for lunch and not give a lunch break?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers March 3, 2021

      Under FLSA rules, your employer must pay you for all hours that you work along with any overtime you earn. If you’re not taking your lunches and they’re still automatically deducting them, that’s a problem because you’re not actually taking your lunches and you’re not getting paid for that time. You need to check your state’s laws regarding auto lunch deductions. Some states say that it’s really up to you (the employee) to actually take your lunches and that it’s not your employer’s responsibility. If I were you, I’d find an HR representative in your area who better understands your state’s lunchtime laws and can help guide you.

  26. General Manager
    General Manager March 6, 2021

    My night auditer watches TV while at work and eats and plays on there phones while on the clock. They exoect to be paid for that time and blame me when i only pay for 8 hours if they work 10 to 15 minutes after they clock out. Do they have any recourse ?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers March 10, 2021

      Technically your employee should only be paid for the time they actually spend working/completing tasks for work. I’m not sure what state you live in, but you may find it difficult to prove that the employee wasn’t actually working during the full duration of the shift; therefore, you’d still have to pay them for their hours worked. I suggest that you seek advice from a legal counsel or speak with an HR expert in your area who specializes in employee rights/payroll.

  27. Tarla Rosten
    Tarla Rosten March 11, 2021

    Hello I’m based in Oklahoma, working a part time job, but soon moving into full time. My employer automatically deducts 1/2hr for our lunch breaks, but we still work during it, an are not paid for this. What can I do about this? If I was to file an investigation with DOL could my employer fire me or punish me for this?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers March 11, 2021

      Under FLSA rules, an employer should pay you for all the time that you work, and they must pay you any overtime for your hours as well. If you aren’t taking breaks and your employer is still deducting break time, this can be a big issue. However, some state laws don’t require employers to actually monitor employee breaks or aren’t required to ensure they’re taking breaks. That being said, you may want to speak with your local labor board to clarify your state’s rules. Regarding your potential termination: that’s really up to your employer. Most employees are at-will employees, which means that an employer can terminate them for any reason, as long as they’re not breaching contracts or terminating an employee due to discriminatory reasons. So, could your employer discipline you? Potentially. However, most DOL investigations are anonymous, therefore, you should be protected. Either way, speak with your local labor board and/or a legal counsel (in your area who understands employment law in OK) for the best advice

  28. Jane Doe
    Jane Doe March 11, 2021

    If I am working towards over time 10hour a day shifts can employee force employee to take 2 hour breaks toward the end of the week to eat up possible over time

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers March 12, 2021

      Break laws can vary by state, so it’s best that you consult with your local labor board.

  29. Melinda
    Melinda April 2, 2021

    Hi, I work at a hospital in GA in Respiratory. On nights and weekends there is only one person in our department. We are unable to leave or get an undisturbed lunch break but yet half hour is being auto deducted from our checks each 12 hour shift. Is this lawful in our state?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers April 3, 2021

      Hi Melinda, according to GA and FLSA law, your employer is not required to give employees breaks. However, Under FLSA law, your employer must pay you properly for all hours worked plus any overtime. A true break entails that you are free of any job duties, and if you’re working through your breaks, your 30-minute meal breaks don’t count as an actual break. This can potentially be an issue. I suggest that you speak with your local labor board about this issue as it seems your employer isn’t calculating your time properly for payroll.

  30. CHERYL
    CHERYL April 7, 2021


    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers April 9, 2021

      Hi Cheryl. Under New York law, meal breaks work like this: “New York law specifically requires meal periods for all employees. Under New York’s Labor Law, factory and manufacturing employers must give their employees 60 minutes for a noontime meal (between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.). Mercantile establishments (generally places where
      merchandise is offered for sale) and other non-factory employers must provide employees with 30 minutes for a noontime meal.” Therefore, it’s likely that your employer must provide you with a meal break. In most states, employers are not required to actually make sure that you’re taking your breaks– that’s typically up to the employee. I suggest that you speak with your local labor board about your state law along with your employer’s meal break requirements.

  31. L browb
    L browb April 20, 2021

    I live and work in illinois at a rehab facility. The new management has cut staffing to the bone and I do not have any other nurse to cover for 15 minutes much less 30 minutes. They have been deducting 30 minute lunch break for 4 years. Is this legal?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers April 21, 2021

      Hi, there. First, I want to mention that under FLSA rules, your employer must pay you for all hours worked, including proper breaks and overtime calculations. If you aren’t relieved of all work duties and they’re recording unpaid breaks, that can be an issue. Additionally, I want to note that employers must give employees at least a 20 minute meal period for each continuous 7.5 hours they work (in Illinois). I suggest that you speak with your HR representative or consult with legal counsel for additional assistance.

  32. KM
    KM May 11, 2021

    In KY, I have to take a 30 min break if I have worked at least 5 hours. My boss has told me I have to make up the time I used for my break, or I am considered not working enough hours (I am full time and salaried). I haven’t had a job require me to make up my break time before. Is this correct?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers May 13, 2021

      hmm, that is interesting. Your employer may be worried about the Salary Basis Requirement from the Department of Labor. To qualify as an exempt employee, you can’t get paid less than $684 per week. If you aren’t working enough to be considered a salaried exempt employee, they potentially would have to file you as a non-exempt employee. If I were you, I’d check with my HR department or with my local labor board.

  33. Justine
    Justine May 17, 2021

    I work in Wisconsin
    My employer takes 30 minute breaks off of my punch card every day. My schedule is 8.5 hours, with 8 hours working and a 30 minute lunch. However, I never get a lunch break and am expected to work all 8.5 hours.
    When I asked my supervisor why I get 30 minutes taken off my punch, he told me that the company does this to account for the short 5-15 minute breaks every employee gets throughout the work day. To quote him, “No one really gets a full 30 minute block, but we all get 5 minutes here or there.”

    I want to know, is this legal? And if it’s not, what am I supposed to do about it?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers May 18, 2021

      Hi Justine. According to the Wisconsin government website, employers aren’t obligated to give employees who are 18 or older breaks. If they do give you breaks and the break is less than 15 minutes, they must pay you for that break because that break counts as “work time”. If the break is longer than 30 minutes and the employee is off duty, the employer doesn’t have to pay the employee for their break. The Department of Labor requires employers to pay employees correctly for all hours that they work, including specific break times and overtime. If your employer isn’t calculating your time properly and isn’t paying you correctly for the time you work, that may be an issue. You should talk to your local labor board about your break laws and clarify whether or not an employer is allowed to deduct your lunches. You will most likely find that this practice is not allowed. I also suggest that you find a local HR expert in your area to help.

  34. Michelle
    Michelle June 7, 2021

    Can your boss give you a written warning for doing something personal during your lunch time? The shop was closed 10 minutes of the 30 minute lunch break she deducted R20 off my salary and gave me a written warning

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers June 8, 2021

      Hi Michelle. When you are on a “bone fide” meal break, according to FLSA law, you should be relieved of all work duties and should be able to take care of personal matters during that time. If your employer is requiring you to stay on the premises during your break time, there’s a chance that your state’s law may consider that “on call time”. If that’s the case, your employer may technically need to pay you for that time. To get a clear answer, you’ll need to check with your local labor board regarding their meal break/on-call policies.

  35. T.L.
    T.L. August 12, 2021

    What is the Texas laws governing lunch breaks. If you worked through w/o a lunch period can your job modify the time to say you had a lunch even when you did not and say that you had time to take a break somewhere in the night because we had two people on shift to allow for the break. I work in a hospital setting and it is not always an option to take a break due to call volume,or patients coming in to the hospital for an assessment/dealing with some situation. Please advise.

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers August 16, 2021

      Hello. Under FLSA rules, an employer is responsible for paying you for all hours that you work. If you didn’t take a break, they shouldn’t deduct a lunch break from your timesheet. However, some state laws indicate that an employer doesn’t necessarily have to ensure that their employees are actually taking their breaks, so if they aren’t taking breaks, it’s not the employer’s fault. I suggest that you contact the Texas Workforce Commission, or an HR expert in your area to advise.

  36. Tim
    Tim September 1, 2021

    My employer requires employees to work from 8am until 5pm with a 1 hour lunch break. This is a 9 hour day and requires that we be available to the employer 45 hours a week, however they only pay employees for 40 hours a week. Is this legal?

    • Lindsay Sommers
      Lindsay Sommers September 9, 2021

      Hi, there. This depends on if you’re a salaried or hourly employee. Overall, an employer must pay you for all hours worked along with any overtime you may have earned. If you’re a nonexempt salaried employee, your paycheck will stay consistent every pay period, no matter how many hours you work. If you’re an exempt hourly employee, you’ll earn a slightly varied paycheck depending on the hours you work. There are no rules defining how many hours an employee is expected to work each week, so an employer can technically make you work 45 hours (or more) a week. Employers do not have to pay employees for breaks over 20 minutes, so your hour-long lunch break is unpaid. If you’re salaried, it doesn’t matter whether you have hour-long lunch breaks because you’re getting paid the same regardless of how many hours you worked or how many breaks you took. Your employer can pay you 40 hours a week.

  37. Nomvuyiso mkulisi
    Nomvuyiso mkulisi September 17, 2021

    If the employees are working 12 hours shift and being paid fo 10 hours , the the first hour is for the breakfast / fatic hour. and 06: 00 — 18:00 compalsary what if the employee clock in at 06:17 ,? Is it count as a short time while they are not being paid for that hour? Even if they are at work at 06:00 or befor that. Does the employer have to diduct your salary from the hour they don’t even pay wherether you are present or absent? Just becouse they say 06:00-18:00 is compalsary.

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