Can an employer dictate what time an exempt employee takes their lunch?

I need to pick up my children from school on occassion maybe 1 or 2 times a

week, so I take my lunch at that time. Today is was from 2:45-3:45. I am an

exempt employee. My boss seems to have an issue with the time that I’m taking my lunch. Generally, I take lunch at 1:30 or so but have taken it later in the day as work demands and sometimes I don’t take a lunch or just eat at my desk. Can she legally dictate when I take my lunch if it’s not company policy nor is it done for other exempt employees?

Asked on August 28, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, California


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

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

Actually your employer can do this, even if you are an exempt worker. That is unless this action violates the terms of a union agreement or employment contract. The fact is that a company can set the conditions of the workplace much as it sees fit, absent some form of legally actionable discrimination. This includes setting the schedule that it deems appropriate. Accordingly you can be told when you can take your lunch, your breaks, etc. 

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

Yes, your employer can do this. The employer, not the employee, determines when the employee must be physically present at work or when he/she must be working and doing duties; the employer, not you, sets your schedule, even if you are exempt, unless and only if you have a written contract specifiying your schedule (if you do have such a contract, it is legally binding and enforceable).

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