Do Hourly Employees Get Paid for Lunch?

Do Hourly Employees Get Paid for Lunch?

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Do Hourly Employees Get Paid for Lunch?

Federal law does not require employers to provide lunch breaks. However, when an employer offers these breaks, usually lasting between 5 to 20 minutes, federal law considers these breaks compensable. In addition, federal law also requires such employers to include the hours spent during lunch or coffee breaks when determining whether the employee worked overtime. 

The truth is that the issue of lunch breaks and hours worked has always been the subject of debate in many workplaces across the United States. This is because some employees believe that they may be entitled to additional pay for the time spent during their lunch breaks. On the other hand, some employers think lunch breaks are not part of the hours worked.

The true answer to this question varies from case to case. 

Although federal law does not require employers to provide lunch breaks, it depends on the jurisdiction. In Washington, for example, employees have a right to take rest and lunch breaks. 

All workers in Washington state are entitled to a 30-minute break for every five hours worked. And they are also eligible for an additional 30-minute break if they work at least 11 hours a day. 

In neighboring California, an employer does not need to pay you for your lunch break. But they should pay you for the time worked if they do not offer this break.

Since the issue of paid lunch breaks is still largely considered a gray area and subject to interpretation, many employers take advantage of the ambiguity to exploit their workers. If you feel your employer has underpaid you, you can learn more about what to do below.

Inform Your Employer About the Issue

Employers are human, and sometimes, they make genuine mistakes. For example, your paycheck may not add up due to your employer's failure to do the math correctly. This could be an honest mistake or intentional. However, when you first learn about it, you may want to treat it as a genuine mistake unless your employer gives you a reason to believe otherwise. 

Consider raising the issue with your employer. Inform them about the hours worked and how much you believe you should have earned during that pay period.

Check Your Employment Agreement and Company Policy

Since the issue of payment always pops up in most workplaces across the US, many employers address this topic in their employment contracts and company policies. When you got hired, chances are you signed an agreement with your employer. The details about your salary should be in the agreement.

Therefore, spare a few minutes to review the agreement to determine whether your employer made a mistake when processing your payment. More specifically, check the company's policies regarding lunch breaks. Does your employer offer these breaks? If so, you should be paid for them. 

Contact a Labor and Employment Attorney

As mentioned earlier, the issue of paid lunch breaks is subject to interpretation. An experienced labor and employment attorney will review your case and determine whether your employer broke any law.

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Get answers to commonly asked questions about our legal services and learn how we may assist you with your case.

  • How Can a Labor and Employment Attorney Help?

    Because labor and employment laws are extensive and often subject to further interpretation, you need an experienced attorney to help you. Here is how such an attorney can help:

    Case Evaluation

    An experienced labor and employment attorney will review your case to determine whether your employer broke the law. The lawyer understands how labor and employment laws work at the federal and state levels. 

    When evaluating your case, the attorney will also review your employment contract with your employer. This contract often discloses essential details regarding an employee's payment structure. It can also highlight the issue of lunch breaks, pay rate, payment system, etc. 

    At Morgan and Morgan, you do not need to worry about being able to afford an attorney. We will review your case for free and let you know whether you have a valid case against your employer. And if you have a valid case, we will walk you through the next steps. 

    Deciding the Best Course of Action

    For most people, a lawsuit is usually the first thing that comes to mind when discussing how an attorney can help. But the truth of the matter is that attorneys usually have many different solutions to such problems. For example, an attorney can help file a complaint with the state labor department in an employment dispute regarding unpaid wages or docked hours. 

    The department will then review the complaint and decide whether the employer broke employment laws. But of course, to do this, the attorney will need to build a strong case against the employer. We will discuss that part shortly. 

    Filing a complaint with the state department is usually less expensive than pursuing a lawsuit. However, this option also comes with some disadvantages, which your attorney will also discuss with you to determine whether it is the best legal path to take. For instance, it limits the amount of compensation you may be entitled to.

    It is also important to note that your attorney can engage your employer directly to try and find a solution to your problem. This option is even more cost-effective than filing a complaint with the state department or a lawsuit in court. However, it can only be effective if your employer is willing to negotiate with your attorney. 

    An experienced attorney will weigh the pros and cons of each legal option and help you choose the best for your case.

    At Morgan and Morgan, you can count on our experienced attorneys to help you make the right decisions. Such disputes usually require careful planning and execution. Bear in mind that the other party also has a right to legal counsel to defend themselves. Therefore, they will likely come prepared for the case, and so should you. 

    But that is not something you should be concerned about when you let Morgan and Morgan labor and employment lawyers handle your case. In fact, did you know that Morgan and Morgan files the most employment litigation cases in the United States? This alone is a testimony of our experience handling these kinds of cases. 

    Interpreting Employer's Actions

    Although some cases of unpaid hours derive from honest mistakes, sometimes, employers use different tactics to avoid paying their employees what they owe them. An experienced attorney understands these tactics because they have handled similar cases in the past. As a result, they know what counts as a genuine mistake or an intentional action to deny employees their hard-earned money. 

    For instance, suppose your employer tactically omits 30 minutes from every 8-hour shift worked. If you work five days a week, that's a minimum of 150 minutes lost. If they do this to 1000 employees, it counts as 150,000 minutes lost every work week. 

    This number does not include overtime pay. In short, some rogue employers make millions in profits from denying their workers their hard-earned salaries. Again, an experienced attorney will evaluate your case to determine whether there is foul play and how best to handle it. 

  • Can Your Employer Cancel Your Meal Break if It Gets Busy at Work?

    You are entitled to a break if you work a certain number of hours. As mentioned earlier, the exact number of hours varies from state to state. That said, your employer cannot cancel your meal break prematurely. Doing so is as good as denying you a meal break. 

    Speak with an experienced labor and employment attorney if your employer continuously cancels your meal break. It could be one of the many tactics rogue employers use to deny their clients their hard-earned salaries. 

  • Can Your Employer Retaliate Against You if You Speak With an Attorney?

    If you suspect your employer has docked your wages unfairly, you have the right to speak with an attorney. Regardless of where you live, your employer cannot retaliate against you for speaking with an attorney. However, it is also important to note that there are times when an employer's retaliatory actions might not seem so obvious.

    Are you wondering why you've suddenly been transferred to a different location, far away from your family? Under normal circumstances, such a job transfer could seem reasonable. But when you take a deeper look, you may be shocked to discover that your employer is actually trying to make your job difficult. This could be a sign of employer retaliation.

    Other common signs of employer retaliation include:

    • Excluding employees from meetings, training, and other activities that are available to fellow employees
    • Reassigning employee's duties in such a way that causes them undue hardship
    • Reduction of salaries
    • Reduction of work hours
    • Termination
    • Demotion 
  • How Do I Find the Best Wage Disputes Attorney?

    There are many labor and employment attorneys out there if you are looking for a legal representative to fight for you. However, not every attorney you come across can fight for you. Therefore, it is important to know the most important things to look out for in such an attorney.

    Below are some quick tips to guide you. 


    When it comes to wage disputes, you need an experienced attorney. Earlier, we mentioned that the issue of paid lunch breaks is always subject to interpretation. And this does not apply only to matters concerning lunch breaks. Rather, it applies to all labor and employment disputes you may have with your employer. Whether it is a case of employer retaliation, denied benefits, wrongful termination, or anything in between, you need an experienced attorney to represent you. 

    Proven Track Record

    Avoid attorneys or law firms that are all talk without action. Instead, you need to work with lawyers or law firms with a proven history of winning. At Morgan and Morgan, for example, our results are louder than our words. In addition, our law firm files the most employment litigation cases in the country. 

    Access to Legal Resources

    One of the most common myths about labor and employment disputes is that they are not too difficult to handle during the initial stages. When people think of complex cases, they imagine wrongful death, car accidents, premises liability, medical malpractice, etc. But contrary to popular belief, labor and employment disputes are equally challenging to handle. 

    Think of a scenario where your attorney needs to file a lawsuit against a powerful employer, precisely a multi-billion company. Chances are they will have the resources they need to defend themselves. Such companies usually have access to the best defense lawyers in the industry. Remember, they will not take your claim lightly because what starts as a standalone claim could quickly escalate into a class-action lawsuit, which is expensive to settle. On the other hand, if you do not work with an attorney or law firm with powerful resources to fight for you, you will likely lose the case. 

  • Let Morgan and Morgan Labor and Employment Attorneys Help You

    At Morgan and Morgan, we are the largest personal injury law firm in the United States. We have been in the business of defending the rights of ordinary Americans for more than three decades. Our labor and employment dispute attorneys handle cases of all magnitudes. So whether you want to sue a small company or a large corporation, we can help you build a strong case against them.

    The best part of it is that we do not need any introduction when it comes to employment law litigation. Chances are your employer, their attorney, or insurer already knows about us. And when the other party discovers that you have Morgan and Morgan by your side, chances are they will stop playing games and actually work towards finding a solution to your problem. But in the rare event that they choose to play games, we will see them in court.

    You deserve to be paid for your skills, time, and hard work. But sadly, some employers do not respect their employee's efforts. Instead, they behave like they are above the law. If that's what you feel about your employer, it is time to speak with an attorney.

    Fill out our free case evaluation form today. You might have a case against your employer. And if you do, you might be eligible for compensation. 

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