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I don't have a set time where I take my lunch and I typically take it at abnormal hours of the typical 8-5 workday. If a meeting is called during the typical lunch hour of 12-1pm time frame and lunch is provided, am I obligated to take my lunch break during that meeting?

So for instance, if I decide not to eat the provided lunch and just show up for the meeting then have I really taken my lunch break? My opinion is no, I haven't taken my lunch yet and after said meeting I should be able to take my lunch if I choose too.

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    How often does this happen in your company? – Brandin Jan 29 '16 at 7:19
  • W̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶c̶o̶u̶n̶t̶r̶y̶ ̶a̶r̶e̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶ ̶f̶r̶o̶m̶? Based on your post history you're from the US, are you exempt or non-exempt? – Lilienthal Jan 29 '16 at 13:20
  • @Brandin not often, its rare actually but it did happen so i thought it was great food for thought (no pun intended) – Raymond Holguin Jan 29 '16 at 17:45
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    @RaymondHolguin If you've got something you normally do in your lunch break (e.g. go for a jog, sports, etc.), it makes perfect sense to do those. You don't have to skip them just because you got lunch at the meeting. Don't make a big deal about it and it should be fine. – Brandin Jan 29 '16 at 19:30
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This sounds like a working lunch - as such, you are on the company time. You may be getting free food, but this does not mean you can't take a break later in the day to compensate for the fact you were working.

However, it might not appear entirely professional - and I'd avoid taking a break if you can, and making it short if you really need the break.

On the other hand, you could probably get yourself excused a bit early at the end of the day.

  • Thats something that crossed my mind. If I don't take a real lunch break then there is no clocking out or anything, so in reality at the end of the day I've put in 9 hours of work. – Raymond Holguin Jan 29 '16 at 17:43
  • If lunch breaks are mandated by law (and I believe they are in every US state), its unprofessional for the company to try and violate the law. – Andy Sep 29 '17 at 1:38
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IF you are working 8 hours a day. And somebody schedules a meeting this is part of your 8 hours of work that day. The reason they are providing lunch is because that is polite for them to do (because normally you would be eating) at that time of day. The quid-pro quo for providing lunch is to cover your inconvenience.

If you worked through lunch then you get your hour off another time. The point is that you are providing 8 hours of work which means doing something for the company for eight hours even if that thing happens to be a meeting.

Now on the other hand. Because most people take lunch off 12-1 this is considered normal and taking a lunch break at another time may lower productivity (because other colleagues expect to be able to communicate with you and get answers things done). So moving your lunch break to another period you should be careful this does not impact the ability of other people to do their work efficiently (so if the office shuts down because they are waiting for you that is unreasonable burden on the employer).

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    And in some jurisdictions it is illegal to take the lunch break by leaving early, so be careful of that too. – HLGEM Jan 29 '16 at 20:48
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If you are given the opportunity to eat during the meeting, that was your lunch. The "provided lunch" is the concession your employer gives you for making you be semi-productive during a period that most days you are normally free from most duties. However, if you were presenting or deliberating for the vast majority of the meeting, you should get a comfortable amount of time to yourself after the meeting's time frame to nom on something. If no one saved you some of whatever lunch was provided, you get to order in or go out to food yourself if it was implied that food was to have been provided for you.

  • My impression was that the lunch was provided because the meeting was scheduled at normal lunch times and whoever called the meeting didn't want to inconvenience folks by making them shift their lunch break. If I was working in an environment where we could choose what time we took lunch, I never took that to mean I had to eat what was provided and that I wasn't allowed to have a lunch break that day. If the company has a policy that lunch must be from 12:00 to 12:42 and management schedules a meeting during that time, that's different. – ColleenV Jan 29 '16 at 2:52
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    I disagree. Providing my with a $5 lunch is not compensation for my time (its worth may more than that). Lunch is provided to be polite for any inconvenience that it may incur to you to have to move your lunch break. – Martin York Jan 29 '16 at 5:00
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    My view is that lunch break (esepcialy since most people are off the clock) is a time you are allowed to have to really get away from work and unwind. Its not necessarily all about the food, though that is a big part. At the meeting, I was not taking a break from work and I choose to not have food. So i haven't had any part of what really constitutes a lunch break. – Raymond Holguin Jan 29 '16 at 17:49
  • This answer is wrong. While it varies from state to state, even in VT the law is a "reasonable amount of time completely free of all work related duties to eat lunch." Other states mandate a fixed amount of time free of all work related duties. – Andy Sep 29 '17 at 1:33
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IF you were working, then you are most likely legally entitled to a lunch break if your local laws require one. However, there is a huge difference between legally entitled to and what the company culture permits.

For instance, many companies do Lunch and Learn events and try to pretend that it is your lunch break but it is really a training session that should be considered paid work time not an unpaid lunch time. However, in the company culture, they expect you not to consider it as work time. You can take a real lunch break after but be prepared for lots of push back from your colleagues and your boss especially if you your charge your time to specific projects or clients as taking a lunch break and calling training time work will mess up their percentages of productive time.

An actual lunchtime meeting with colleagues from other departments who don't sit by you is easier to get by with taking your real lunch afterwards (or earlier) because no one will notice. Personally I always take a lunch break away from the office and my coworkers are used to that. So no one questions when I do the same after a meeting that happened to be scheduled at lunch. Many of my coworkers work at their desks and eat lunch there or skip lunch entirely. Most of them are the ones who schedule lunchtime meetings.

It helps to block your lunch period off on your calendar and then fewer of those meetings will be scheduled. I usually push back on meetings scheduled at lunch unless I know they are something time-critical or the organizer is having trouble scheduling.

A big deal meeting with a fancy catered lunch and senior management is usually going to be considered as your lunch break in most companies I have worked for. Nor can you usually ask for those types of meetings to be rescheduled. If the CEO wants a company-wide meeting at noon, then that is what is going to happen. Sometimes, it is in your best interest to just accept that. Luckily these tend to happen relatively rarely.

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    "However, in the company culture, they expect you not to consider it as work time" Which is why I've never gone to a "lunch and learn." Company culture can be overcome by referring people to the local dept. of labor. – Andy Sep 29 '17 at 1:35

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