Lunch out – paid or unpaid?

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A supervisory employee chooses takes an accounts payable representative to lunch at a local restaurant.  The supervisor pays for the lunch with the company credit card.  The supervisor calls it a “working lunch.”   My question — would the lunch period be considered part of their workday or their lunch break? or both?

If considered as part of their work day, would the employer be in violation of Massachusetts law by not giving a non-working lunch break?

Or, might this be a non-issue because both agreed to choose to ‘work’ over lunch?


The “working lunch” is certainly a more common occurrence now, as employers and employees are struggling to be more efficient.  I will assume that your scenario takes place in Massachusetts, because laws can vary between states.

In Massachusetts, most employers must allow employees to take a thirty-minute meal break if the employee works more than six hours in a single day.  The meal break does not need to be paid but the employee must be freed from all work-related duties.  In your scenario, I don’t know how many hours per day the employee has worked.  Assuming the employee has worked (or plans to work) more than six hours in a single work day, the employee is entitled to a 30-minute meal break without any work-related responsibilities.

Additionally, the employer cannot require an employee to remain on the premises.  In short, the employee must be able to use this time freely independent of work-related activities. The law in Massachusetts also specifies that an employee is also allowed to pray during their meal breaks.

The law does not prohibit an employee from volunteering to work through the mail break however the employee must be compensated for this time.  This is often the part where both an employer and an employee make a mistake.  Both assume that this can be unpaid time.  This time should be paid.

In Massachusetts, this law applies to most employees who work six or more hours in a single work day (whether exempt or non-exempt).  There are certain exemptions from this law but most employers are required to follow this law.  Employees who are minors (under age 18), employees working in very specific industries (examples include the iron and glass industries) and employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement are examples of possible exceptions.

In Massachusetts, there seems to be a misconception that employers are required to offer rest breaks or “coffee breaks” to employees.  This is not required by Massachusetts law.  There are several other states which require 10-minute breaks after four hours of work, but Massachusetts is not one of them.

The Attorney General’s Office in Massachusetts has a website that may be helpful too.  Visit and click on Workplace Rights.  You can find additional information on vacation, meal breaks, minimum wage and youth employment.  The website also provides information on required posters for the workplace as well as recent advisories on a number of labor and employment-related topics.