Does an employer have to pay nonexempt employees for time when they eat lunch at their desks?

Author: Jessica Sussman

Employers are not required to pay employees for the time they spend eating a meal during the work day as long as:

  • The meal break is at least 30 minutes long;
  • The employee can leave his or her post; and
  • The employee is completely relieved from all duties during the meal break.

So if the employees have 30 minutes for lunch, are free to leave their desks and are relieved from duty, they do not need to be paid for that time. However, if they perform even small tasks, such as answering the phone, they must be paid.