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This is a question about a job in the United States. It's a sales position in a small company where a person has to work alone in a small office. The work is for 9 hours a day where you can't leave the office to have your lunch. In other words, you need to have your lunch at the office during office hour.

The worker only gets paid for 8 hours a day, without any overtime. It's a 4-day-a-week job. With 2 people changing daily shifts & sometimes overlapping.

When the worker approached the representative of the employer regarding the possibility to be paid for the lunch hour, he was told that he can close the office to have his lunch break. The issue with that is that the business is not advertised as having lunch breaks, so if he closes the office he runs into trouble with customers (and delivery people, i.e. FedEx, UPS, etc) who complain that the office was closed when they were not aware of it (i.e. the sign does not mention lunch breaks.)

So my question, is it worth for the worker to pursue being paid for the lunch hour in that situation?

  • Too many variables in this equation. – solarflare Mar 21 at 3:20
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    Can the worker ask the boss if he can make a "closed for lunch" sign? – nick012000 Mar 21 at 3:27
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    I don't know for the states but in some other countries there is a law that dictates breaks be granted to the employees. In other words one must not work longer than x hours without a break which of course isn't paid - or else the employer would admit to break this law. What is your situation like? – puck Mar 21 at 4:53
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    Somewhat related for those curious: US states and territories requiring a meal break. – BSMP Mar 21 at 6:08
  • "You have to eat on the job" and "you can't leave the office during lunch" are not at all the same thing, the former implies you may have to work/answer phone/email/receive deliveries/whatever throughout lunch. The former insinuates you don't get a proper lunch break, the latter doesn't. Please state the question clearly otherwise we don't know what's being asked. – smci Mar 21 at 7:15
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When the worker approached the representative of the employer regarding the possibility to be paid for the lunch hour, he was told that he can close the office to have his lunch break

OK, so the employer made it clear, they are OK with having the business closed for a "reasonable amount of time for lunch break" but they are not willing to pay extra. It's less likely that any repeat attempt is going to prove any more successful.

The issue with that is that the business is not advertised as having lunch breaks, so if he closes the office he runs into trouble with customers (and delivery people, i.e. FedEx, UPS, etc) who complain that the office was closed when they were not aware of it (i.e. the sign does not mention lunch breaks.)

Make sure to put up a sign mentioning "Lunch break is from 12:30 to 13:30" and let the others deal with it. He got a direction (and approval) from the management to close the office for lunch and as long as that is adhered to, there's not much else to worry about.

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In the United States, for a meal break to be considered non-compensable time, the worker has to be fully relieved of his/her work duties:

Bona fide meal periods are not worktime. Bona fide meal periods do not include coffee breaks or time for snacks. These are rest periods. The employee must be completely relieved from duty for the purposes of eating regular meals. Ordinarily 30 minutes or more is long enough for a bona fide meal period. A shorter period may be long enough under special conditions. The employee is not relieved if he is required to perform any duties, whether active or inactive, while eating. For example, an office employee who is required to eat at his desk or a factory worker who is required to be at his machine is working while eating. (emphasis added)

Electronic Code of Federal Regulations - Rest and Meal Periods

The examples given specifically include your scenario, being required to remain in the office and perform duties while eating.

In such a case, as the time is not your own, the law says your employer must pay for your break.

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When the worker approached the representative of the employer regarding the possibility to be paid for the lunch hour, he was told that he can close the office to have his lunch break. The issue with that is that the business is not advertised as having lunch breaks, so if he closes the office he runs into trouble with customers (and delivery people, i.e. FedEx, UPS, etc)

That's not really your concern. You were told you could close the office for lunch. It's up to the company to determine how to deal with customers, deliveries, etc. If it were me, I'd close the office and inform my manager that I was doing so as I was directed.

  • The only other thing I would add is make sure you raise these concerns with your manager. Sometimes they can forget the day-to-day requirements of a job. – Gregory Currie Mar 21 at 4:04
  • This is the classic, tape a hand written note to the door saying out for lunch, back at this time. – Shadowzee Mar 21 at 4:59

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