Can an employer terminate an employee for leaving the work premises while on their off the clock unpaid meal break?

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Can an employer terminate an employee for leaving the work premises while on their off the clock unpaid meal break?

Asked on October 8, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, New York

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

While state law requires that a meal break must be given, it does not mandate that an employee be allowed to leave the work premises during their break whether paid or unpaid. However, the employee must be relieved of all of their work duties during the break.
If an employee does not comply with a no-leave policy, they can be discharged from their employment. In fact, an employer can fire an employee for this reason, any reason or no reason at all. What many employees fail to realize is that most employers can set the terms and conditions of the workplace much as they see fit this is known as employment "at will". 
The foregoing is true unless an employer's action violates the terms of a union or collective bargaining agreement, employment contract or company policy. Also, such action must not constitute any form of actionable discrimination or retaliation. 


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