Spurred by this question and my own experience.
A previous employer of mine required non-exempt workers (like me) to take a 30 minute unpaid lunch break each day. Because the office location wasn't near much of anything, most people ended up either eating at their desks and twiddling thumbs, or just working through lunch while snacking away.
As someone who keeps a busy schedule outside of work, I found this pretty annoying. I'd much rather take my 30 minutes at the end of the day to leave early so I can actually do something, rather than have 30 unpaid minutes of sitting around an office.
This seems to fit at least two of the four "hallmarks" of waiting time from this answer.:
- is not engaged in the work for which they were hired
- is not able to effectively use the time for themselves
However, this FLSA fact sheet says:
Bona fide meal periods (typically 30 minutes or more) generally need not be compensated as work time. The employee must be completely relieved from duty for the purpose of eating regular meals. The employee is not relieved if he/she is required to perform any duties, whether active or inactive, while eating.
Obviously, those who work through lunch are required to be compensated. Is there any insight into the intent of the FLSA, and why it exempts meal breaks from waiting hours?
Or are there exceptions to the meal break rule for when the 30 minutes cannot be reasonably construed to relieve the employee of their duty?