Meal Breaks and Payment of Wages

In Massachusetts, and as a matter of federal law, hourly employees do not have a right to be paid for meal breaks. However, meal breaks must be bona fide. There are two main parts of that.

1) Meal breaks must be long enough. Usually that means 30 minutes, but sometimes a shorter period will be acceptable if there are special circumstances. The general rule, however, is that a meal break must be at least 30 minutes long. Hourly employees generally must be paid for all breaks shorter than 30 minutes.

2) The employee must be free from all active and inactive duties during the break for the break to be unpaid. An employee does not have to be allowed to leave the building, but an office worker who is required to eat at his desk or a factory worker who is required to be at his machine is working while eating and is not on a bona fide meal break. An employee who has to watch or monitor something during the “meal break” is not on a bona fide meal break.

Free feel to contact us if you are not getting paid for short breaks or meal breaks during which you are not relieved from all duties.


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