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Should my Meal Breaks be Paid?

On Behalf of | Oct 21, 2015 | Employment Law

The work lunch-it’s good and bad. The bad is that you’re spending yet more time with coworkers. The good is that you get paid-or do you? There’s no federal law mandating that employees be paid for meals or breaks. So what should you expect?

In West Virginia, state and federal law mandate that employees be paid for breaks less than 20 minutes after 6 hours of work. That’s good news if you eat fast and tend to bring your lunch! If you’re under 16 years of age, you get an extra 10 minutes and you only have to work for 5 hours to earn your break. In West Virginia, there are no rules mandating rest breaks. Those who are part of a union may have extra protections for meal and rest breaks under their union contracts. You should refer to your contract for more information.

If you are not part of a union and your meal break lasts longer than 20 minutes and you are relieved of all work during that time, you don’t have to be paid. This applies even if you are not allowed to leave your employer’s property during meal breaks. If your meal breaks are usually interrupted or you are required to work through them, then you should probably be paid for them, and you should talk to your supervisor if not.

If your meal breaks are paid, you should also be getting overtime from your supervisor, because that means you are not an exempt employee. Any time over 40 hours should be compensated at least time and a half.

If you aren’t getting any breaks at work and think that you should, first, find out what your rights are, either from your employee handbook, union contract or state laws. Then, check to see if you are being paid for all your time at work, and that no break or meal times are being subtracted. Talk to coworkers and approach your supervisor as a group. If your employer does not respond, contact your state representative or the state enforcement agency for the U.S. Department of Labor.

If you have been the target of workplace harassment, discrimination or unfair termination, Bouchillon, Crossan & Colburn, L.C. represents clients in federal court and before the EEOC, MSPB and in state and union grievance hearings.

Our attorneys have more than 40 years dedicated to giving clients the attention, advice, support and empowerment they need to effectively meet their goals. We are committed to the principle that all persons shall have equal justice under the law. Call Bouchillon, Crossan & Colburn, L.C. at 304-523-8451 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.