The employees made a deal with their manager that if they took a 10- minute lunch period they would be able to quit 20 minutes early andstill work eight hours per day

The 10-Minute Meal Period

The employees made a deal with their manager that if they took a 10- minute lunch period they would be able to quit 20 minutes early andstill work eight hours per day. (They also had two rest periods.) After a 3-year period, one employee evidently got indigestion or a nervousstomach and complained to the Wage and Hour Division.

The division took the position that under its regulations, CFR Sect. 785.18, this must be a paid period because it was less than 20 minutes.Investigation revealed that employees left their machines and went to the lunchroom for 10 minutes (one even stated that he went home forlunch). When the bell rang, they all returned to their machines. The Wage and Hour Division demanded two years’ back pay (the maximumamount allowable under state statute) because employees worked 40 hours and 50 minutes per week under their interpretation. Thisamounted to over $12,000 for about 60 employees. The employer took the position that employees were serving their own interest for the10-minute meal period, thus the break was not work time and therefore not compensable, refusing to pay. Wage and Hour threatenedlitigation.

 

Is the meal period compensable?

How might this problem have been avoided?

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