View Full Version : Forced lunch breaks New Mexico

11-19-2010, 12:58 PM
I was wondering if it is legal to force employees to take an hour for lunch (so they don't get overtime) but require them to stay at the office. The office I work in has no break room, only a front desk. If I stayed at the office for lunch I would be required to eat at the front desk while handling clients. Something about this does not seem right!

11-19-2010, 01:01 PM
Legal (barely) under federal rules. No idea about NM.


(b) Where no permission to leave premises. It is not necessary that an employee be permitted to leave the premises if he is otherwise completely freed from duties during the meal period.

11-19-2010, 01:05 PM
Thanks! I realize that it is just under the radar, but I guess I can mention to my employer that I am not relieved of my duties while taking my break.... just stuffing my face while taking care of clients!

11-19-2010, 01:10 PM
Can you eat in your car? I've done that before, not because there isn't a break room, but because it's just a nice break to get away from people for an hour. I would imagine, especially, if you're at the front desk all day.

11-19-2010, 01:23 PM
Yes, I have done that before! As long as I am close enough to be called back in to help that is fine. I just do not like eating in the car as much when it is cold outside! I do enjoy it in the summer!:cool:

11-19-2010, 03:26 PM
If you're called back in during your lunch period to work (handle clients), then
you must be paid for your lunch time. You're not relieved of all duties.

11-19-2010, 03:34 PM
Mostly agreed. We are talking about a full hour here. Let's say that Bob is the employee, and Bob's lunch hour is 12-1. Bob starts lunch at 12:00, at 12:15 is called back to work, and at 12:25 is released to lunch until 1:00.
- The remaining 35 minutes is a valid unpaid lunch. The time worked is paid. The first 15 minutes is also paid because it is not a valid unpaid lunch.

Lunch is sort of "the devil is in the detail", especially if we are talking one hour lunches. With 1/2 hour lunches it is hard to work anywhere in that period without making the entire period paid. With full hour (or 45 minute) lunches, we sort of have to look at the sizes of the pieces. 20 minutes of free time might be unpaid. 30 minutes (or more) of free time is unpaid.

As was discussed maybe last month, if the employer tries to schedule unpaid lunch periods of more then one hour, it stops becoming lunch (per federal DOL).

11-19-2010, 03:56 PM
Agree, DAW. Betty3 (I should have been more clear.)

11-19-2010, 04:38 PM
Thanks everyone! I am still a bit confused about being forced to claim one full hour as lunch, when I know darn well that I will be lucky to get half of my sandwich eaten before my presence is requested again! I am lucky to get 10 minutes of alone time!:p
Up until two months ago I never questioned it, but now that I am working 55-60 hours a week, and being forced to stay at the office during my lunch break I am just a tad "grumpy" (I can think of more colorful words... but those are not appropriate on this or any forum!)

Thanks again!

11-19-2010, 04:42 PM
Does the boss EXPECT you to eat your lunch at your desk in case someone comes in?

11-19-2010, 04:59 PM
Yes Patty! I work as a test proctor and we are not authorized to have any less than 2 employees in the office at one time. The problem is that we are open 14 hours a day 6 days a week and only have 3 employees. The company does not want to hire a fourth, but also does not want any of us to go over 40 hours a week! Hence the mandatory hour or more breaks. We are required to stay on the premises for all lunch breaks. (choice words!)

11-19-2010, 08:29 PM
I need you to go by the exact wording here because it does make a difference.

Does he expect you to stay ON THE PREMISES or AT THE DESK? It is understood that there is no break room; nonetheless, please answer the question literally as I am going somewhere very specific here.

11-19-2010, 08:32 PM
On the premises not at the desk. Sorry for the confusion!

11-19-2010, 10:24 PM
Just to clarify, neither Federal nor New Mexico law required that you be given a lunch break (or any other kind of break) at all. Federal definitions state that IF an employer chooses to offer breaks, then one of less than 20 minutes must be a paid break, and an uninterrupted break of 30 minutes constitutes a legitimate meal break.

Although the law does not require breaks, an employer may. It is legal in all 50 states for an employer to require an employee to take a lunch break, even if the law of that state does not. It is also legal in all 50 states for an employer to manage an employee's time so that they do not go over 40 hours in a week. While the law says that if you work overtime, even unapproved, you must be paid for it, there is no inherent right to work overtime. If, for example, you worked through your hour lunch break, it would be legal for your employer to send you home an hour early so that you do not go over 40 hours.

With the statute that DAW posted, you may be required to remain on the premises without having to be paid UNLESS you are not "relieved of duty". Since your boss is not requiring that you sit at the front desk, just stay on the premises, IMO you have been "relieved of duty" no matter where you sit UNLESS you actually do have to take care of customers. If you do, then you have to be paid for the time (if you get 30 uninterrupted minutes, you would only have to be paid for a half hour - if you do not, then you'd need to be paid for the full hour).

Can you and a co-worker eat together at their desk? In an empty office? (I once took my lunch into the big storage closet just to get a break on a bad day.) If you did interrupt your lunch to go wait on customers, you'd have to be paid as DAW described above, but if you weren't, then at least you'd have the break.

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