Under Massachusetts Law, employees who work more than six hours a day must be allowed at least thirty minutes unpaid time for a meal. A violation of the meal time provision is subject to fines between $300 and $600.
Employees are entitled to meal time compensation if their movement is restricted during the break or if the employee is required to perform a job function during the break. This type of meal time waiver must be the voluntary decision of the employee and only the employee has the power to waive a meal period.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, if an employer provides a lunch break, and the employee eats during the break, the employer still may have to pay for the entire lunch period, depending on what else the employee does during that time.
The test for when a meal period may be unpaid is as follows: “As long as the employee can pursue his or her mealtime adequately and comfortably, is not engaged in the performance of any substantial duties, and does not spend time predominantly for the employer’s benefit the time is not compensable.”
Employer’s meal break policies may create an environment where their employees perform off-the-clock work without compensation prohibited by the FLSA. Employers with meal break policies are responsible for ensuring their employee’s are not working through unpaid meal periods, while employees should not work without compensation during their meal periods.