Unpaid Lunch Breaks

We often get questions from our clients as to whether or not they have to provide paid breaks for their employees.   Many employees are “convinced” that their employer must provide two fifteen minute breaks and at least a one-half unpaid lunch break.  For the sake of this writing, let’s talk about employees who are over the age of 18 and the regulations for the State of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin employers do not have to provide any breaks, or lunch breaks of any kind to any employees (again – 18 or older).  However, if the employer does choose to be so kind as to provide a break the guidelines are as follows:

1.  Anything less than 30 minutes, must be a paid break.  If the employee punches in and out and the clocked out time is only 29 minutes, the employer must pay for the whole break

2. The employee must be free to leave the premises.

3.  When the employee takes their break and decides to sit at their desk, if they so much as answer a work email or answer the phone, the 30 minute break is no longer a 30 minute break and it must be paid.

4.  Many employers use an auto break which automatically clocks the employees out for 30 minutes. This is fine provided the employees are free to leave, are not expected to do any company business during this time and do not do any company business (even if it is “volunteer”).

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As for the employees at Wisconsin Pay – they don’t get any unpaid breaks – but we do have a beautiful painted picture on a window for them to gaze at.