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

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022Fact Checked

Get Legal Help Today

Compare Quotes From Top Companies and Save

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 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.

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.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption