Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employees are supposed to be relieved of all duties during meal periods. If they’re not, then meal breaks are considered paid time.
That doesn’t mean employers can’t prohibit some meal break activities without having to pay employees.
Recent case: Dallas Cowboys employee Kevin wanted to spend his lunch break encouraging co-workers to attend church social functions. The Cowboys prohibited all religious solicitations on the premises.
Kevin sued, alleging that since he wasn’t allowed to do whatever he wanted during lunch, he hadn’t been truly relieved of work duties.
The court didn’t buy the argument. Just because he couldn’t ask employees to come to church didn’t mean he had to be paid for lunch. (Lacy v. Dallas Cowboys Football Club, No. 3:11-CV-0300, ND TX, 2012)