Can I deduct a half hour for lunch regardless of whether or not they take it?

Posted: January 10, 2017

No, you cannot deduct any time from an employee’s working time unless the employee is actually not working.  For that reason, you cannot deduct a ½ hour for lunch every day without regard to whether your employees take lunch.  Under federal law, an employer can deduct time for lunch only if the employee has a lunch break of at least 30 minutes and has no work duties during that time.

Also under federal law, if an employer allows an employee to work through lunch, then the time that employee spent working during the lunch break will count toward the employee’s total number of hours worked.  This could be significant if the employee is eligible for overtime pay and worked more than 40 hours during the employee’s workweek (including the working-through-lunch time).

Federal law does not require employers to provide their employees with lunch breaks.  But many states require employees to provide meal breaks for their employees, and some even require employees to take meal breaks.  Employers should be aware of any state and local laws applicable to the locations where they do business and employ workers.