Should Tennessee Employers Pay Hourly Employees for Meal Periods?

Our experienced Tennessee wage and hour lawyer helps Nashville, Chattanooga, Memphis, and Jackson employees get every penny they deserve

According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) “rest periods of short duration, usually 20 minutes or less, are common in industry and are customarily paid for as working time. These short periods must be counted as hours worked.” Bona fide meal periods, typically 30 minutes or more, need not be compensated as work time as long as the employee is completely relieved from duty for that purpose. If an employee is required to perform any duties while eating, they are not considered “relieved” and must be compensated.

If your employer provides an uncompensated meal period but expects you to perform any kind of work during it, you should consult one of the Tennessee wage and hour attorneys at Gilbert Russell McWherter Scott Bobbitt, PLC. The lawyers at The Firm have more than 80 years’ collective experience defending the employment rights of people in Tennessee and surrounding areas.

Are meal breaks required by federal law?

Federal law does not require meal breaks, but many state wage and hour laws do. For example, Tennessee law requires that employees scheduled to work six consecutive hours or more receive a half hour meal break and that it may not be scheduled during or before the first hour of scheduled work activity. Meal breaks of 30 minutes or longer do not have to be compensated as long as the employee is totally relieved of duty.

The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) recognizes that at times employees’ workloads may cause them to work during uncompensated meal periods. For example, if an employee stays at his or her desk and answers the phone while on his or her lunch break, he or she is technically working. This time must be counted and paid as compensable hours worked because they were not completely relieved from duty.

Federal law requires accurate recordkeeping on the part of employers  of hours worked each day and total hours worked each week for covered and non-exempt employees. For that reason, even if an employee fails to record hours worked during a regularly uncompensated period, as long as the employer knows that the work was performed or, with normal diligence should have known about it having been performed, the employee must be compensated for it.

The attorneys at The Firm have an enviable record of success advocating for employees’ rights in the workplace. With more than eighty years’ collective experience and licensure to practice in both federal and state courts, we represent our clients with equal skill and determination before both federal and state wage and hour regulatory agencies.

If you are working during uncompensated meal periods, let us help

If you believe you are being wrongfully deprived of compensation because of an unfair practice the Gilbert Firm wants to hear from you. Please call 888.354.FIRM to discuss your complaint with an experienced Tennessee wage and hour lawyer, or fill out our contact form to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our offices are conveniently located in Nashville, Chattanooga, Memphis, and Jackson.