If required to take an unpaid lunch by your employer, can they make it a requirement that you cannot leave your place of work so you are available if assistance is needed?

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If required to take an unpaid lunch by your employer, can they make it a requirement that you cannot leave your place of work so you are available if assistance is needed?

My place of business doesn’t have enough
managers so on days where there is not
another manager, I’m required to take a
1 hour unpaid lunch but must remain in
the building in case I’m needed.

Asked on July 23, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Michigan

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

If you are salaried, then the concept of "paid" vs. "unpaid" lunch is irrelevant: you're paid the same amount no matter how many hours you work, and your employer can make you stay on site as long as they want. However, if you are hourly, you must be allowed to leave the site if you choose for lunch (though as practical matter, you may not always have time to go anywhere else before you must be back): if you are restricted to the site for the employer's benefit or its purposes or at its instructions and are not relatively free to go/do what you want, that is considered "work" time and you'd have to be paid for it. There is no unpaid time when you have to do what the employer wants. If the time is unpaid, you must be free to go.


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