Is it legal for an employer to ask you to work 8 hours without a lunch break

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Is it legal for an employer to ask you to work 8 hours without a lunch break

I am asked to work 8 hours daily 40 hours a week
but am not allowed to leave or take a lunch break. Is
this legal?

Asked on November 3, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Maryland


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

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

There is no federal law giving workers a right to either a rest or meal break. However, some states require such breaks, unfortunately MD is not one of them. That having been sadi, whether your state has a break law or not, a worker almost always has to be paid for breaks of less than 20 minutes. Additionally, health benfits are not legally mandated, which means that they are provided at the discretion of an employer (i.e. they need not be given). The only protection you might have here is if a union agreement or employment contract provides otherwise.

the break is at least last 20 minutes, AND
you are relieved of all work (you are not told what to do during the break)

Oddly, the Department of Labor says that a meal break can be unpaid, even if you are not allowed to leave your work site. But, if you are doing anything for your boss, you must be paid. You must be completely relieved of your work and responsibility if you are not paid. If your meal breaks are often interrupted that is a strong sign that you should be paid for your breaks.
If your meal breaks are paid, be sure that you are also being paid overtime if that means that your workweek is more than 40 hours. For example, if you work from 8:30 a.m. -5 p.m. with a 30-minute meal break and two days a week you work during your meal break, you worked 41 hours that week and one hour is at time-and-a-half (41.5 hours).

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 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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