Can I please take a lunch break?

by Evil HR Lady on April 2, 2015

I was just reading a great article you wrote titled Can you be fired for skipping lunch.

I have a question that has been pestering me for a while. I am an hourly worker and it’s normal for all my team members to work through lunches. Sometimes we take a 15-20 minute lunch maybe once or if lucky twice a week. Now, we do get paid overtime for working through lunches, but I’d rather have my lunch so I can calm my nerves? I really don’t care about the overtime pay.

My question is, is this legal or even ok to work an 8 hour shift with no lunch?

First of all, sucking up to me gets your question moved to the front of the queue. Just saying. Although, it needs to sound sincere. That was a particularly good article, if I do say so myself.

Okay, now that we’re done with Suzanne’s self-esteem boost, let’s answer the question. Federal law doesn’t require lunch breaks. Some state laws do. You can find out what your state law says by googling State Name, break law and you should find it pretty easily.

Regardless of whether the law requires you to take a lunch or not, it’s a really reasonable request. I, personally, always need a lunch. You don’t want to be around me if I haven’t been fed. Sometimes I do eat while working, other times I eat while watching Netflix. (I’m self-employed, so my boss allows that. She’s very nice. Weird, but nice.)

So, even if your state doesn’t require a lunch break, I’d approach your boss with something like this. “I find that I work so much better when I have time to eat and regenerate. I’m more productive if I get that break every day. Unfortunately, most of the time we work right through our lunch break. I know I’m getting paid, but I’d really like to take a 30 minute break–off the clock of course–every day. I’d be happy to stay late to catch up on anything that would normally been done during lunch. Is that possible?”

A rational manager will say yes. In fact, a rational manager will realize she’s built up a culture that doesn’t allow for food. This is a bad culture. Sure, there are times when it’s so busy you can hardly breathe, but if it’s like this every day, there’s a management problem.

Even if it is state law, approach it from the “I need this” first and then you can throw in, “I found out that state law requires this. I’d hate for the company to get in trouble!” But the real reason your boss should allow you to take a lunch break is that it’s the right thing for you and it makes you perform better.

Now, of course, there are other people out there who perform better (or think they perform better) when they just power through the day, without pausing. I’m not one of those people and neither are you. And with that, it’s 11:58. I’m signing off to have some lunch.

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