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Mass lunch break laws?? Massachusetts

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  • Mass lunch break laws?? Massachusetts

    I work for a large home care agency. I have 2 issues that if possible I would like answered.
    1. We are paid for a 30 lunch break. If you do not leave the building for your lunch, which they discourage, you must answer phones, or deal with any job related duty that is your responsibility, while you are at lunch. They do not compensate you for that lost time, which happens very!!! frequently. Can they do this??

    2. Secondly, in this office there are approx. 12 office employees. Everyone is salaried. Even if they are not in a supervisory position.
    Does the state of Massachusetts have laws defining exempt employees ?? I have read the federal law about administrative exemption and salary based qualifications. Please clarify this if possible.


  • #2
    "Salaried" and "hourly" are just payment methods. Under federal law (FLSA), it is perfectly legal to pay Non-Exempt employees using a Salaried payment method. While most Exempt employees must be paid on a Salaried basis, the use of a Salaried basis by itself does not mean the employer is trying to use an Exempt classification. If however, the employer is not paying overtime, then presumably the employer is (correctly or incorrectly) claiming that the employee passes one of the Exempt classification tests, and many/most of the Exempt classification require paying the employee on a Salaried basis.

    If the employee is Non-Exempt, then all hours "worked" must be counted, and making an employee work during lunch under federal rules tends to make the lunch time count as hours worked. If the employee is correctly classified as Exempt, then since overtime is not paid, this issue pretty much goes away (under federal rules). If you check recent postings by "PattyMD", I am pretty sure that she referenced the exact federal rule in the past day or so.

    I am going to let someone who actually knows something about MA to answer the MA specific portion of the question. I can say that MA (or any other state) cannot make federal law go away. At most the state can make the laws more favorable to the employee then federal. States cannot have laws that are less favorable to the employee then federal.
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
    Philip K. **** (1928-1982)


    • #3
      There was nothing in my chart regarding unique laws for exempt status in MA (although there may be). But DAW is correct. If employees can't meet the criteria for exempt classification under the FLSA, then they couldn't meet any state requirements, which can be ONLY more restrictive, not less.

      Again, "salary" does not necessarily equate to "exempt".
      I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.


      • #4
        1. Meal Break. If you're looking for specific reference to MA laws on the subject, the DOS issued an opinion in 2003, which states that requiring an employee to be on premises during their break constitutes a "work-related duty", even if the time is uninterrupted and their is no work. Thus the time must be paid.

        The MA Attorney General also issued an Advisory on Meal Periods in 1994 which made it clear that if, during the work break, the employee's movement was restricted or if the employee was required to perform a work function, then the break must be considered paid time. The law has not changed much with respect to meal breaks.

        2. Exempt Time. MA law does have specific exemptions from overtime. The definitions are in MGL chapter 151, section 1A. You should note that Sub-section (3) of that law, which states "as a bona fide executive, or administrative or professional person," refers to the Federal definitions of those classifications.

        You should look at Sub-section (16), which states that no overtime under state law for an employee who is employed "in a hospital, sanitorium, convalescent or nursing home, infirmary, rest home or charitable home for the aged."

        Depending upon what you do for your "home care" agency, you may have causes of action under FLSA or the MA Wage Act for overtime. You'll need to tell me a little bit more about your duties (exactly what you do, and the break down in relative time for each activity) and the facility you work in and then we can dig into the details.
        This post is by Philip Gordon, a Massachusetts employment attorney (

        This post is NOT legal advice. It is for general/educational information purposes only. You should not rely on this post if you are making decisions, and it does not create an attorney-client relationship. This post may be considered "advertising" under the MA professional rules for attorneys.


        • #5
          Originally posted by capecodwashashore View Post
          They do not compensate you for that lost time, which happens very!!! frequently. Can they do this??
          If you are non-exempt, Massachusetts requires that you have a 30 minute lunch break and you must be allowed to leave the premises, but that is without any pay required.

          If you are non-exempt and being paid for your lunch (as you stated you are), you are being compensated for your time, in accordance with the law, even if you have to do some work.

          If you are exempt, you are being paid on a salary basis for the week no matter how many or how few hours you work. The company is not required to give you some free time because you may have done some work while on lunch.
          Senior Professional in Human Resources and Certified Staffing Professional with over 30 years experience. Any advice provided is based upon experience and education, but does not constitute legal advice.