Is it legal to have money taken out of your paycheck for breaks that you did not take?

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Is it legal to have money taken out of your paycheck for breaks that you did not take?

I started a new job working 8 and a half hours a day. I was never told their were mandatory lunch periods or breaks. After noticing money missing from my paychecks I found out our HR lady had been writing in 30 minute lunch periods on days I didn’t even take lunches and taking it out of my pay. She did this after I signed my paystub so I didn’t know she was doing it. Is this legal? Can I sue?

Asked on December 29, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Missouri

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

If you worked over lunch, you must be paid for it--if the employer does not want you to work over lunch (or want to pay for it), they have the option of telling you to not work during lunch break, and IF you work *after* being specifically told to not work, then they don't have to pay you; the employer, not you, sets your schedule. But if they had you work or allowed you to work, you must be paid: hourly employees must be paid for all hours worked as long as it was not against their employer's instructions.
You could try contacting the state department of labor to file a wage and hour complaint for the unpaid wages; you may also be able to file a claim for illegal retaliation, if you were fired after raising the issue--employers may not terminate employees for raising their legal rights. If the department can't or won't help you, you have the legal right to sue (e.g. in small claims court) for the money you should have been paid, but it may not be economically worth the cost of filing and the time (assume it will take a full day of your time, during the work week) involved.


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