Paying Employees for Lunch Break

Does your practice have clear policies regarding rest and meal breaks for hourly (nonexempt) employees?

The Fair Labor Standards Act does not require an employer to provide meal periods or rest breaks for their employees. If your office does provide breaks and/or meal periods, however, you need to follow FLSA rules:

  • Short rest periods up to 20 minutes must be counted as hours worked and paid for as such.
  • Generally, 30 minutes or more is enough time for a bona fide meal period. For this to be unpaid time, the employee must be completely relieved from duty during that time, although you can require the employee to remain on the premises.

An office employee who is required to eat at his or her desk is not relieved from duty if he or she is required to answer the phone or respond to patients, even if no calls are actually received.

Your office policies and procedures should contain clear rules requiring nonexempt employees to:

  • Take a 30-minute meal break during which time the employee performs no duties, and
  • Report the meal period as hours worked if the employee performs some duties during the meal period.

Learn more about employment laws that can affect your practice:

  • Refer to the U.S. Department of Labor’s interactive elaws Advisors, an easy-to-use source of information on basic labor laws.

NOTICE: This information is provided as a commentary on legal issues and is not intended to provide advice on any specific legal matter. The Texas Medical Association provides this information with the express understanding that 1) no attorney-client relationship exists, 2) neither TMA nor its attorneys are engaged in providing legal advice and 3) that the information is of a general character. This is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. While every effort is made to ensure that content is complete, accurate and timely, TMA cannot guarantee the accuracy and totality of the information contained in this publication and assumes no legal responsibility for loss or damages resulting from the use of this content. You should not rely on this information when dealing with personal legal matters; rather legal advice from retained legal counsel should be sought.   


TMA Practice E-Tips main page  


Last Updated On

September 08, 2021

Originally Published On

September 13, 2012