Can You Let Your Employees Skip Lunch?

Your employment practices liability policy is there to protect your business against claims of hostile work environments and hiring discrimination, but employment practices also deals with a comparatively smaller issue:  an employee working through their lunch. Not every state is required to have employees take a lunch, so it’s important to check your states’ labor laws. In New York, for example, meal breaks are required, though the length depends on the industry and the shift. However, keep in mind that this might not apply to your state.

While it may be legal to skip your lunch in your state, there’s one thing that still needs to be factored in: overtime pay. Some companies will allow employees to work through their lunch, sometimes in writing. But when you  factor in needing personal time as an employee to make personal calls, take a smoke break, eat a small snack or even use the bathroom, it’s more beneficial for employees to simply take a break or two rather than skip lunch. There’s more than one reason as to why employees shouldn’t skip lunch.

Your Lunch Impacts Your Overtime Pay

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) currently has no requirements for employer-supplied breaks and lunch free time at work. But there’s one thing that will always be compensated: small 5-20 minute breaks. Little coffee breaks like that are required to be compensated by the employer, meaning that employees don’t have to clock out for a small break. If you clock out for lunch but still work on the job, you’re required to be paid for the amount of time that you were working. If you’re a full-time worker and you make over 40 hours a week because of skipping your lunches, your job is required to pay you for every cent. It’s a federal law called the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that can’t be bypassed. However, not taking a lunch and getting paid for the time can add up, and you may be driven to discipline employees for it.

You Shouldn’t Work Through Your Lunch to Leave Early

Everyone probably can agree that it would be great to leave work early. But it might not be the best idea to do so. Your employees are likely to see decreased productivity if they try to work through lunch. It’s important to take a break so you can revitalize yourself and prepare for another stretch of work. However, if an employee really has to leave for emergency purposes, it’s up to your discretion to allow it.

If You Let It Happen Once, It’ll Happen Again

Also known as copied or learned behavior, you might have a situation on your hands if your employees find out that you’re allowing them to skip lunches. Long story short, if you let one employee skip lunch or leave early, then others will ask if they can do the same.

Some companies will punish an employee for skipping their lunch. A real estate firm fired a woman for working through her lunch, according to CBS. This is an extreme scenario, but not understanding labor laws and the effects of allowing employees to work through or skip their lunch break could lead to troubles down the line.


About World Wide Specialty Programs

For the last 50 years, World Wide Specialty Programs has dedicated itself to providing the optimal products and solutions for the staffing industry. As the only insurance firm to be an ASA commercial liability partner, we are committed to that partnership and committed to using our knowledge of the industry to provide staffing firms with the best possible coverage. For more information about Staffing Professional Liability Insurance or any other coverage, we have available to protect your staffing business, give us a call at (800) 245-9653 to speak with one of our representatives.