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Some employees must be compensated for meal breaks

Many full-time employees in New York companies are allowed to take a meal break each day. A meal break typically lasts about 30 minutes to an hour, and it may or may not be paid for. When facing the question of whether or not an employee should be compensated for a meal break, courts look at each case on an individual basis.

Some employees are allowed to leave their workplace for lunch and go wherever they choose. These employees may be able to do things like change out of their work uniform, run personal errands or take a nap. When they are not restricted in their movements or activities during a meal break, it is usually not compensable. A worker who has a meal break like this may 'clock out" before the break and then 'clock in" before starting to work again.

Workers who are restricted in their movements and activities during their meal breaks may receive wages for lunch or dinner. If they cannot change out of their employee uniform and must remain on the work premises during meal breaks, they may be compensated for their down time. A court may also look at whether the employee is on-call during meal breaks and how many times the employee's meal breaks have been interrupted.

While laws about meal breaks are subject to interpretation, short rest breaks that last between five and 20 minutes are always compensable. An employee who has not been compensated for short rest breaks at work may want to talk to a lawyer about filing a wage and hour law claim with the U.S. Department of Labor or applicable state agency.

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