Can an employer send me on a lunch break and then keep me on break as long as they want until it gets busy again and they need me to clock back on?

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Can an employer send me on a lunch break and then keep me on break as long as they want until it gets busy again and they need me to clock back on?

When I go on a my 30 minute lunch break, after the 30 minutes are up my manager won’t let me clock back on and go back to work until it’s busy again. Therefore I can be on break from anywhere from 1 to 2 hours. Is this legal?

Asked on May 10, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Utah

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Yes, it is legal--if you are truly free (100% off duty) during that time. In the absence of an employment contract or a union agreement which sets your schedule, the employer is free to schedule your work however it likes, and to alter your schedule at will. This includes the right to have you come in late, go home early, or take an extended lunch break during slow times.

However, you must be free to do what you want and to leave the premises during your extended break--that is, you must truly be not working. If you are required to stay at the office or work site and cannot go and do whatever you want, then that is work and you must be paid. Not all work is productive; if you are being told to remain at work for the employer's benefit (so you're there when it needs you), then that is still "work" and you must be paid.


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