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Am I required to take a meal break? New York

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  • Am I required to take a meal break? New York

    I an hourly wage employee, working on the overnight (Night Audit) shift at a Hotel in Upstate New York. Our shifts are 6:30 AM to 3:00 PM, 2:30 PM to 11:00 PM, and then 10:30 PM to 7:00 AM. Our morning and evening shift front desk employees take an unpaid 30 minute break for lunch/dinner. So they "punch out" for their meal break (which they can take on property or off). While each employee is on their break, there are at least one or two other employees at the front desk, plus there are usually members of management in the office or nearby. There are also housemen and dining room staff nearby, so no guest goes unnoticed or unhelped. On the overnight shift, there are only two night Auditors on the entire property (170+ rooms spread over multiple buildings). We are always on duty and cannot leave the grounds. We are required to "punch out" for a 30 minute break, even though we are always on the job. So even if I am off the clock and eating, I am still working. I understand my employee must give me the 30 minute unpaid break, but am I legally required to take it? I am on the property and working 8 1/2 hours - shouldn't I have the option to be paid for that 8 1/2 hours? Thank you in advance for any input or advice!

  • #2
    The law normally makes an exception when there is only one person on duty. But, you two can't spell each other?

    In any case, if you are not relieved of duty during that time, you must be paid for it. You can file a claim with the state Dept. of Labor for unpaid wages.
    I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

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    • #3
      BUT, if your employer says you have to take a break, you have to take a break. End of story.
      The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

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      • #4
        Spell Each Other??

        I am not quite sure what is meant by "you two can't spell each other?", but when one person is on break, the other person is, of course, on duty. But if an emergency arises (fire alarm goes off), or if a guest has an immediate request (the heat/AC won't come on in the room - come fix it), the clerk on duty cannot leave the desk until the other comes back from break. So, we can punch out, but in essence, we cannot actually leave the desk or the premises. Management just makes us "punch out and then punch back in 30 minutes later". We are NOT getting a "break". I think that if I am there working overnight for 8 1/2 hours, I should be PAID for working 8 1/2 hours. I am not salaried. If I was, it would not matter.

        "But if your employer says you have to take a break, you have to take a break. End of story".
        The break is to make everything look good on paper. I do not get a "break" I take 30 minutes off the clock, but I am still working. I don't think that is legal or fair.

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        • #5
          What I meant by "spell each other" is exactly what you said.

          So, here's the deal, though. If you are just required to remain on the premises available in case you are needed, that is not compensable. If, however, you are called back to work during your meal period with less than a 30-minute break (uninterrupted time), then that makes the entire break compensable. (I would note for other posters that the 30-minute requirement is state-specific.)

          So, I stand by my previous advice about contacting the state DOL if appplicable.
          I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

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          • #6
            Typically, the law provides that you must be given an unpaid lunch break during your shift if you work over a certain number of hours. If you are unable to take that break and be relieved of all of your duties, then it is a "working lunch" and they are required to pay you for it. However, if it is possible to get relieved of all of your duties for that time, I don't think you have a leg to stand on unless you and your employer can sign a written agreement that you will be paid for that time and you are not required to take it.

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