19 thoughts on “Can you be fired for skipping lunch?

  1. “””Is it a violation of law if your boss calls you at home and asks where you put a file? It takes 30 seconds to answer that question, but technically it’s work.”””

    So does that mean I should put it on my timecard? (But what if I’ve submitted my timecard for the day already?) Or should I tell him “Sorry, but answering that would put the business in violation of federal law”? 😉

    1. I love the idea of answering, “Sorry, but answering that would put the business in violation of federal law.” That would be hilarious.

      But in real life I’d just answer the question.

  2. I’m so glad you wrote about this. I saw all the coverage of it last week, and pretty much all of it had the slant of “this is so outrageous that an employer would fire someone for trying to help the company” … and no acknowledgement of the fact that the employee could be causing big problems for the company. And I’d bet money on the likelihood that she’s been previously warned not to do this.

    1. In at least one of the articles it mentioned the HR person telling her multiple times. It’s a big deal and people don’t understand that.

  3. I’m work in California (where meal breaks are required for work over a certain amount of time.) I tell employees when they are hired:
    -Your meal breaks are mandatory.
    -You are not doing the company a favor by working through your meal break or not taking one.
    -You will be disciplined if you fail to take your meal break in all but the most extenuating circumstances.
    -If I or your manager have to talk to you more than once about not taking your meal breaks you may be terminated.

    While the situation is not exactly the same, employees do not realize that violations of these types of labor laws can cause huge problems for employers. Not to mention, the employee who is saying they don’t mind working through their meal break now is the same one who will be filing a claim saying they are due wages when their employers upsets them in the future.

    1. This is also true. When everything is fine, no one minds. When things turn sour, suddenly the working through lunch that was no big deal becomes an actionable offense.

      You are so smart to present all of that up front.

    2. Additionally, if the employer allows one employee to bend the rules and work through lunch, it can carry the implication (intended or not) that other employees should do that as well. Suddenly you have employees who don’t want to work through lunch doing it anyways because they’re feeling pressured.

    1. I doubt it. I would have fired her for the same reason. It’s too expensive for a business to violate the law. No working when you’re clocked out. Period.

      1. At my organization, they periodically survey non-exempt employees to determine how many hours they have worked unreported (through lunch, after work, etc.) and then cut them a check for the estimated unreported hours. Which is a really expensive fix.

        Thanks for explaining this in non-jargon. My assistant gets so frustrated with me when I try to explain that she is risking getting herself and others in trouble for working unreported hours (checking emails at night/weekends, etc.) even if she is just trying to be helpful.

  4. OK, so I work in NH and my shift is 10 hours long 4 days a week. I have been allowed by my supervisors and manager to eat at my work station in between taking phone calls or dealing with computer problems (I work in an IT related field). Now, HR is pressuring my manager to enforce half hour unpaid breaks so my day has gone up to a 10 1/2 hour day but I still only get paid for the 10. NH state labor law seems to contain an exception to mandatory breaks if the employee is allowed to eat at their work station, but what I’m hearing is since company policy says we have to take breaks then we have to take breaks. This seems to be in direct opposition to the labor law I mentioned. Who is in the right here?

  5. I wish people where I worked would read this article. I work at a nonprofit, so anything that doesn’t get done within our 40 hours, quite a few hourly employees (all non-exempt) work more than 40 hours on a regular basis and say, “Well, anything over 40 hours is just volunteering.” I keep reminding them that “volunteering” at your job isn’t really volunteering and is, in fact, illegal to do. Administration does nothing to keep this in check (even the COO/CFO/HR director – we’re pretty small) and, in small ways, encourages the mindset.

    Another reason beyond the legality of the issue to not work over your set hours, if overtime is not allowed, is that it gives the company a false sense of how many employees they need. When a person left, they hired one person to replace her when she was really working close to 70 hours per week. (yes, as an “hourly, non-exempt employee”) and only putting 40 on her timesheet. The new employee is having massive difficulty getting her work done in the allotted 40 hours and she, like me, knows it’s illegal to work more than 40 hours without overtime. She is so stressed out all the time, and the company refuses to hire another (even part-time) worker to help her with the overly large workload.

    I personally refuse to work without pay when my job is what it is. If they want to make me salaried, give me vacation time, and pay me a bit more, I’d be glad to work more hours when needed. I still laugh about the time the company told everyone (exempt and non-exempt) that they had to attend a Sunday event at the company with our board of directors. When I asked if I “had” to attend, they said that I did. When I asked if they were paying me for my worktime, they realized their blunder and amended the memo to non-exempt to say, “You are strongly encouraged to attend this event.” Oh, did I mention that it fell on Super Bowl Sunday? Right after kickoff? Guess how many non-exempt employees attended…

  6. I work for a company in PA that builds and delivers and services gas well housing… We work long hours and don’t have time to take lunches most days because of travel restrictions but the company takes 30 minutes a day from us anyway??? Is this legal???

  7. Can you be fired if you ACCIDENTALLY didn’t take your lunch break? It’s never happened before, but this one time you let the time get away from you?

  8. Hi! I’ve been reading online and am getting mixed ideas about this.

    The business I work for is more than happy to pay for working lunches or worked-through lunches, which doesn’t happen a lot, but when things get crazy, they’re crazy.

    I’ve read that it’s illegal to not pay someone for a working lunch, fair enough, but I’ve also read it’s illegal to not provide someone with a meal period. Should we be forcing people to take one even if we’re willing to pay overtime for it at the end of the week?

  9. The company i work at didnt even tell me that it illagal for an employee to work through lunch, i got wrote up for it and they are not paying me:(

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