Recently, our law firm has received a host of inquires regarding employers’ common practice of “auto-deducting” 30-minute lunches or meal breaks from employees’ time worked. Employers often auto-deduct these 30-minute lunch or meal breaks from timecards when employees work out in the filed or away from the main office, such as delivery drivers and merchandisers.

The practice of automatically deducting 30-minutes for lunch from employees’ time is not illegal per se, but it often leads to systematic wage theft. To illustrate, take the case of a delivery driver. Each day, a delivery driver is given a specific route with limited windows of time in which they must make various stops and deliveries. As a result of these strict time constraints, the driver must spend the entire 8-hour shift meeting delivery deadlines. This means that the driver is never able to stop for a full 30 minutes to enjoy the duty-free meal break he has the right to receive by law. However, the employer may assume that the driver took his lunch break and will often consequently auto-deduct the 30-minutes from the driver’s overall time. Unfortunately, employers sometimes also knowingly falsify employees’ time records by auto-deducting this time despite being aware that no breaks were taken.

Sneaking a few bites of a sandwich while driving or conducting other work duties is not the same as receiving an actual lunch break. The law protects employees who are forced to work through their meal breaks by requiring that employers not only pay you for all time worked, but also pay you an extra ‘premium wage’—one hour of pay—for having to work through your breaks. When an employer automatically deducts your lunch break, a further violation occurs if you worked more than 8 hours that day: The 30-minute auto-deduction has then deprived you of overtime pay you rightfully earned.

The attorneys at Justice Law Corporation have been successful in challenging these “auto-deduct” practices against employers in many industries.  If your present employer or past employer has utilized a practice of auto-deducting your meal breaks, we can help you assess whether you were subjected to systematic wage theft.

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