At Good Guys Construction Co., jobsite supervisors schedule the workday for all field employees. Last pay period, the team was under a tight schedule to get a certain job completed. On one day the supervisor told his hourly (nonexempt) employees that, to meet the required deadline, they would have to skip lunch. The employees complained, claiming that lunch breaks are required by law. Seeking a compromise, the super­visor asked each field employee to take a 15-minute unpaid lunch that day instead of the usual 30 minutes.

First, note that federal labor laws, and many state labor laws, do not require employers to provide a lunch period or break period to their employees who are over 18 years of age. In this case, however, the supervisor’s compromise actually violated a federal Wage and Hour regulation, which says that when any unpaid break or “bona fide meal...

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