Seventh Circuit: Unworked Portions of Bona Fide Meal Periods Are Unpaid
All Employers with WI Employees
January 31, 2023
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In Wirth v. RLJ Dental, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals stated that Wisconsin law does not require employers to pay for the unworked portion of a bona fide meal period where the employee is relieved of all duty but voluntarily chooses to shorten their meal period. In Wisconsin, a bona fide meal period is unpaid if it relieves the employee of all duty, including to leave the premises, for at least 30 minutes.
There, an employee was given an hour for lunch, during which time the office shut down, and the employee was not required to work and free to leave the premises. However, despite being admonished not to, the employee would clock in to work before the meal period was complete. The employee was still paid for all time in which she was clocked in and working, but she claimed she should have been paid for the full meal period (including time clocked out, not working) even though she voluntarily elected to take less than 30 minutes for lunch.
The Third Circuit did not focus on whether the employee voluntarily elected to end a meal period early, but rather on the employer’s fulfillment of its obligations. Where the employer provides at least 30 minutes for a duty-free meal period, the unworked portion of the meal period is not compensable. Employers must take care to ensure that bona fide meal periods are provided before declining to compensate employees during meal periods.
- Have meal period policies reviewed for compliance.
- Have appropriate personnel trained on meal period practices.
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