Do I have to take time off for lunch?

Question

My boss claims that I have to take a half-hour lunch, unpaid. Can they force me to take a lunch break? How about while I'm working overtime or extra time?

Answer

You cannot be force-fed, but some states require employers to give employees a meal break. And this means employees must take the break, or their employers risk the wrath of the state labor department.

The specifics of the time off -- how long it must be, how long you must work before you are entitled to a break, and whether or not you are entitled to be paid for the break time -- depend on your state's law. Contact your state labor department to find out whether your state mandates breaks.

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