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Employees Who Work Through Lunch Must Be Paid Even if Employer Has Limited Knowledge

The Massachusetts Appellate Court has recently decided that employees who work through lunch must be paid if the employer has some knowledge of the work. Justice James R. Milkey wrote: “…Armed with at least constructive knowledge that the employees were undertaking lunch time work that should have been credited toward the overtime, the company went ahead and assumed in its favor that the employees were not performing any suck work except where they separated reported it through a process that [the plaintiff] was never trained in, or even told to use.”

The Plaintiff in this case alleged that business demands forced her to work through her lunch break three to four times a week. As a result, although the lunch break was paid, hours worked before or after her 0:00 am start time and 5:00 pm end time therefore should have been paid as overtime. The Court found that the Company had knowledge that the Plaintiff and her colleagues were working through lunch because management observed the behavior and reminded the employees to take a lunch break. The Court wrote that it was “hardly surprising given that work done during a lunch break cost the company no extra direct compensation (since the employees were already being paid for that time).”

The decision is important for Massachusetts’ employees because it affirms the standard that it is the employer’s duty – not the employee’s duty-to monitor the time its employees spend working. While the employer must have some type of notice that an employee is working through lunch, the Court here has pointed out that simply observing the employees working through the lunch period and reminding them to take lunch is enough to have “constructive notice”.

If you have any concerns about whether your company is violating this standard, please contact us at (978) 228-2262.

Vitali v. Reit Management and Research LLC, Suffolk Superior Court C.A. No.: 12-0588-BLS1

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