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Human Resources

Do I have to pay for lunch?

11/6/2019

Jessica Mitchell, SHRM-CP
HR Business Partner

As an employer, you want your employees to spend their time at the “office” productively — doing what you hired them to do. But everyone’s gotta eat. When employees are hourly, how and when they eat can make a big impact on your business.

For example, requirements for paid or unpaid meal breaks can be complex. In general, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act does not require that employers provide meal breaks to employees. But
if employers choose to offer a meal break, the length of the break determines whether the time is paid or unpaid and whether it can count towards overtime. State and local laws apply as well.

Meanwhile, unclear expense reimbursement policies in company handbooks can also leave employers on the hook for the cost of employee meals. Employees are humans and humans have
got to eat. How to handle that human aspect of HR is, well… food for thought. ♦

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