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Can we offer pizza instead of pay when employees must work through lunch?

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

Q. Occasionally, when we receive a big order, our nonexempt employees are required to work through their lunch break. Although we do not pay them overtime for this work, we buy pizzas and sodas for all the affected workers. Is this lawful?

A. No. If nonexempt workers are required (or even ­allowed) to perform any job duties during their lunch break, they are entitled to compensation for the entire ­period. Providing the workers with lunch is a nice gesture, but it isn’t an adequate replacement for pay.

If nonexempt employees work during their lunch break, including attending a company meeting, they are entitled to pay—even if the employer provides lunch.

These types of mistakes can be extremely costly, as employers have paid millions in judgments and settlements of wage-and-hour lawsuits.

Note: The California Supreme Court is soon expected to issue a decision on the issue of whether employers must ensure that meal and rest breaks are taken or whether employers need only make those breaks available.

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