If I am expected to respond to work tasks while on meal break, is my boss required to pay me?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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If I am expected to respond to work tasks while on meal break, is my boss required to pay me?

I’m a watch engineer and my employer says that meal breaks are not paid, however state law states that I cannot leave the premises and my employer requires that I respond to phone calls

and equipment alarms. Are they required to pay for my meal break?

Asked on June 26, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, New Jersey


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

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

NJ does not require that an employer provide breaks, including lunch breaks, for workers 18 years of age or older. However, an employer who chooses to provide a break in excess of 20 minutes does not have to pay wages for lunch periods or other breaks if the employee is free to leave the worksite, in fact takes their lunch or break, and the employee does not actually perform work. Pursuant to federal law, breaks of 20 minutes or less must be paid. Accordingly, if your company is giving its workers breaks but does not let you or anyone else leave the premises during such time and you are on call, then you should be getting paid. At this point, if your employer will not compensate you, you can file a complaint with your state's department of labor and/or consult directly with an employment law attorney. Additionally, if you should be terminated for any of this, then you would also have a claim for retaliation and could collect money damages.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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