Many workplaces give employees time to eat during their workday even though it may not be legally required. Whether employees are entitled to a lunch break in Florida generally depends on their employer’s internal policies and the specific terms of the offer letter or employment agreement. However, there are some federal and state law caveats that employers and employees should understand.
Generally, in Florida, employers are not required to provide either paid or unpaid meal breaks. They can set their own policies. Many do offer meal breaks because it is customary to give employees time to eat if they are working full-time. Further, it may make workers more productive to have food and rest during their shift.
Notably, there are some requirements that employers must meet. They must comply with Florida law which states that employees who work more than a 10-hour shift must be paid overtime. Further, certain employees under 18 years of age must be given meal breaks of at least 30 minutes if they work more than four hours continuously with a few exceptions. In addition, federal law applies to meal breaks where employers choose to offer them.
Employers do not have to provide a meal break under federal law, but if they provide break time, they must comply with federal law. U.S. labor and employment laws state that breaks under 20 minutes must be paid and the time included as ‘hours worked’ for overtime purposes. Longer breaks over 30 minutes do not have to be paid or counted as part of the hours worked, provided that the employee is not required to work during lunch. The employee must be “completely relieved from duty” while eating or must be compensated.
Employees must always be paid for time worked. Therefore, if an employee works through a lunch break, the employer must pay that time and count it as hours worked for overtime purposes. This is true even if the employee is not actively working and is simply on duty in case someone calls or an emergency comes up.
Importantly, employers cannot automatically deduct meal breaks from an employee’s hours worked if an employee chooses to work through the meal break.
Employers that provide meal breaks can prohibit employees from leaving the premises. This does not violate the law that employees must be completely relieved from duty while on a lunch break or they must be paid for the meal.
Whether an employee can take a lunch break depends greatly on the employer’s policies. However, Florida and federal law do give employees certain rights. If you are unclear on your obligations as an employer or you believe your rights were violated, please contact us for a consultation.