State of Michigan Lunch and Break Law

Recently, I’ve been researching state lunch and break laws, as well as other work-hour related issues. In Michigan, the state law only regulates the meal breaks for employees under the age of 18. State law mandates that employees ages 14 to 17 be given a 30 minute meal break if they have worked five hours or more. This may be an unpaid break.

While Michigan law does not have any lunch and break provisions for workers 18 and over, residents of the state should know that they are covered by several federal regulations.

Federal law does not mandate any specific meal or rest breaks. It does, however, give guidance as to whether or not an employee should be paid during these times. Short breaks (usually 20 minutes or less) should be counted as hours worked. True “meal periods” are usually 30 minutes or more, and do not need to be paid as work time. During an unpaid meal break, a worker must be completely free of his or her work duties. If the employee is still required to do any duties (even minor duties such as answering a phone), it can’t be considered a meal or lunch period and must be paid.

Federal law also contains regulations related to employee pay during times of waiting, sleeping and traveling. Whether or not waiting time needs to be considered paid work hours depends on the circumstances.

If an employee is at the workplace and allowed to do something of his or her choosing while waiting for one task to be finished or for another to begin, it is generally considered paid work time. A common example of this might be a fire fighter reading a book at the station while waiting for fire calls. On the other hand, if an employee is “on call” at home or elsewhere and waiting to be called upon, it is not generally considered paid work time. For this to be the case the employee must also have great freedom to do what he or she wishes while on call and have plenty of time to respond to the calls.

When it comes to travel time, the principle to observe is that time spent in the normal day’s commute to and from work is not considered paid working time. However, if an employee is traveling in the course of a days work, it must be considered paid work time.

Another final issue of interest may be sleeping time. An employee required to be on duty less than 24 hours is considered to be “working” even if he or she is permitted to sleep during some of those hours when not busy. If an employee is on duty more than 24 hours, a sleeping period of no more than eight hours may be subtracted from work hours. However, this can only be done if sleeping quarters are provided and at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep may be achieved by the employee.

A listing of state and federal regulations relating to lunch and break law may be found on the Michigan Complete Labor Law Poster. This poster also features information on all other state and federal labor law requirements.

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181 Thoughts on “State of Michigan Lunch and Break Law”

Mr.

December 5, 2010 at 2:26 pm

My employer gives us (2) paid 15 minute breaks and (1) unpaid 45 minute lunch break for an 8 hour shift. The thought is that they want to keep us in the field as long as possible without incurring overtime hours.
1) Are there any laws that states that we have to take an unpaid lunch break at all?
2) What specific law addresses this?
3) Can I decline to take a lunch break altogether?

Amelia

December 5, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Hi Mr.! Michigan has no law that requires an employer to give rest or meal breaks to employees. However, the law does permit the employer to establish a policy that employees must take such breaks. To be honest, your employer’s policy seems reasonable and even generous. We hear from people every week who are complaining because they are forced to work 8 hours or more without any meal or rest breaks.

To address your questions:
1) There is no state or federal law that a Michigan employer must grant meal or rest breaks. However, the employer has the right to establish company policies, and to require that employees follow them.

2) The federal Fair Labor Standards Act or FLSA does not require that employers give rest breaks or meal breaks to workers in general industry. However, if the employer chooses to grant such breaks, the FLSA requires that employees be paid for breaks that are shorter than 20 minutes. The employer is abiding by that law, by paying you for two 15-minute rest breaks.

Generally speaking, the U.S. Department of Labor allows an employer to give an unpaid meal break that is between 20 minutes and 60 minutes long. An unpaid meal break longer than 60 minutes is generally considered waiting time, and the employee may be entitled to payment for it. An employee cannot be required to work during an unpaid meal break.

3) Yes, you have the right to decline to take a meal break. This is a free country and no one is going to tie you down and force you to take a meal break. However, the employer also has the right to fire you for not following the company policy regarding meal or rest breaks.

This is a complex issue, so feel free to post any additional questions you may have. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Scott

January 31, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Good Afternoon,

I need clarification on MIchigan law in regard to paid travel time to and from work sites. My employer has just announced that travel time to and from jobs will no longer be paid. This would only apply to quoted jobs and not jobs being billed at an hourly rate.

Rumors abound on legality, some say it is not legal, some say that if we are paid minimum wage for travel time it is legal. Some say we should be paid to the job and not return time. Very confusing.

Circumstances do require reporting to the office before going to the job site. Material pick up or meet with other employees to ride share etc. With some jobs being 1 hour or more from our shop, it’s hard to swallow not being paid for 2 hrs each day worked.

The idea is getting 8 hours of work from each employee ON THE JOB. So if we leave at 8, get there at 10, work til 6, 2 hrs home, that’s a 12 hr day for 8 hrs pay. Doesn’t seem legal or fair.

Thanks for your time and advice.

Amelia

January 31, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Hi Scott! First of all, this is covered under federal law, not Michigan law. The regulations regarding travel time are complex under the federal FLSA or Fair Labor Standards Act. Basically, an employee who travels from his home to the work site is not entitled to payment for that time. However, when an employee is required to travel to the office and then to a work site, the time spent traveling from the office to the work site is paid work time. (Time spent traveling from one work site to another would also be paid work time.) If the employee must meet with others for instructions at the office, load or unload supplies, pick up a company truck, or receive assignments, etc. then the employee must be paid for the travel from the office to the work site.

There is an exception to this rule if the employees are not required to meet at the office, and are doing so for their own convenience only, to share rides to the worksite. Then, the employees are not entitled to payment for travel from the office to the work site. However, it sounds like that exception does not apply in your case.

This travel time can be paid at the minimum wage. However, when travel and work added together are more than 40 hours, the employee is entitled to overtime at 1.5 times his average hourly rate for the week. If the employee averages $22 per hour over the week, he must be paid $33 per hour for overtime, even if that time is spent in travel and travel is normally paid at minimum wage.

The same rules apply for travel home. If the employee leaves the work site and drives directly to his home, usually he is not entitled to payment for that time. This is considered his daily commute. However, if the employee must go to the office to drop off supplies or a truck, unload, or complete paperwork, etc. then he is entitled to payment for the trip from the work site to the office.

In some cases when the work site is outside an area’s normal commuting range, an employee on a short-term assignment is entitled to payment for travel even if he goes directly to the work site. This may be the case for your assignments with a job that is 1 hour from the shop.

Explore the links below for resources regarding travel time from the U.S. Department of Labor. If you believe you are entitled to payment for travel time, tactfully request it from the employer. If the employer refuses, file a wage complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor at http://www.dol.gov. They will investigate and if they find you are owed wages, will force the employer to pay. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who files a wage complaint in good faith, even if it turns out that the employee is not owed any wages. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Read more about this at:
http://blog.laborlawtalk.com/2009/06/26/michigan-travel-time-and-flsa/
http://www.dol.gov/compliance/topics/wages-other-travel.htm
http://www.dol.gov/elaws/esa/flsa/hoursworked/screenER49.asp

Melissa

February 3, 2011 at 12:32 am

Hi, I understand that there are no laws in MI requiring breaks. 1) I work in a retail store, for an 8 hour shift alone. Is there anything covering safety issues or even a trip to the bathroom….if i step off of the floor to use the bathroom my store is completely unattended.
2) Also, I am pregnant and provided my boss with a note from my doctor saying that I need to take a break every 4 hours. I understand that I would be unpaid if I clocked out, but she refuses to let me schedule a second person so that I can even take this unpaid/medically required break. What can I do?

3) Also, I am a salaried employee and when we work over 40 hours we receive 1/2 time? Is this legal?
Thanks for the help, my job is ridiculous.

Amelia

February 3, 2011 at 8:18 am

Hi Melissa! There are several issues in your question, so we numbered them for easy reference.

1) You are correct that there is no federal or Michigan law that requires an employer to give meal breaks or rest breaks to workers. OSHA worker safety standards require that employees be permitted to use the toilet when nature calls. That does not include smoking, making cell phone calls or other activities that could take place in a bathroom — it includes using the toilet only. How the store handles security while the only employee is using the toilet is a matter of company policy. Most stores leave the door unlocked and take their chances.

2) Pregnancy is not a permanent disability, therefore it is not covered under ADA. The employer is not required to make any accommodations for a pregnant worker. Bascially, you are expected to perform the same job, just as you did before you were pregnant.

It is unreasonable for you to expect the employer to pay a second employee to be present while you are working to give you breaks. Why would they go to the bother and expense? Why not just schedule the second person alone and take you off the schedule permanently? Even when an employee has a permanent disability under ADA, scheduling a second worker is not required because it is an undue hardship for the employer.

Your doctor does not have the authority to modify your job duties, any more than your boss determines your medical treatment. When you give the employer a doctor’s note, you are informing them of your physical limitations. In a sense, you informed your boss that you can no longer physically do your job, which involves working a retail store alone. When you gave your boss this note, many employers would have simply taken you off the schedule until you were physically able to perform all the duties of your job. This would have been entirely legal.

There is really not a lot that you can do about this situation. You can continue working and eat a snack on duty when business allows, or you can quit your job because you are not physically able to do it. In that case, you will not qualify for unemployment benefits. The other option is for you to find a way to do your job, even though you are pregnant.

3) You are a non-exempt salaried employee and this is probably lawful. Basically, your salary covers all the regular hours you work each week, so the employer only has to pay you the overtime premium. You can certainly file a wage complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor at http://www.dol.gov for unpaid overtime. They will investigate and if you are owed wages, force the employer to pay them. It is illegal for the employer to retaliate against an employee who files a wage complaint in good faith. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Jennifer

February 8, 2011 at 4:57 pm

I worked at a building where I worked 8 and a half hours a day and was told by my supervisor that I would get payed for that extra half hour everyday since I would not be able to be free of duties. It ended up that it would be 2 and a half hours of over time every week. I never got paid for it and when I complained they said it would be on the next check and when it wasn’t it would be on the next check, so on and so forth for months. then one day my new supervisor claimed that they coudn’t do that and that I would not be reimbursed for my time and made a sly threat that they wouldn’t fire me if I persued this they would just transfer me to a farther away site I would hate and also let me know how replaceable all of us were.

Now about a year later they are reimbursing only the males that worked in that building and also claimed that they don’t have to pay because the security field is exempt from the laws.

He also tried to tell me that when working 2nd shift they don’t have to pay me for that extra half hour because there is nothing going on but I still would not be permitted to leave and would have to answer the phones or respond to any alarms that went off for that half hour time period.

My question would be is any field exempt from the laws and would I be right in pursuing things further.

Amelia

February 8, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Hi Jennifer! Yes, you should pursue this. While some occupations are exempt from the overtime laws (executives, doctors) they usually apply to security guards. There are some exceptions to the laws for police officers and prison guards, but the overtime law still applies to them.

There is no requirement under federal or Michigan law that an employee be allowed to leave the premises on his or her meal break. An employee who is relieved of duties but remains on the premises can be on an unpaid meal break. However, if you were still required to remain at your work station and monitor video cameras, phones or alarms while eating, that is work time that should be paid.

Both Michigan and federal law require that an employee who works more than 40 hours per week be paid overtime. You should contact the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth at http://www.michigan.gov/dleg and file a wage complaint. They will investigate and if they find you are owed back pay, force the employer to pay. You should do this soon, because they can only investigate back two years, and it may take them several months to investigate.

It is also illegal for them to pay overtime to male employees but not to female employees. This is illegal discrimination based on sex. You should file a discrimination complaint with the federal EEOC at http://www.eeoc.gov. Again, they will investigate and if they find there is evidence of discrimination, they will file a lawsuit against the employer. All of this at both agencies is free — you don’t even have to pay a lawyer.

One of the reasons we suggest you file these complaints is because you have more job protection if you file a complaint with a government agency, than if you just gripe to your employer. (You have already asked your employer nicely to pay you, and they have declined.)

It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against you when you make a complaint. Transfering you to a location further away would be retaliation. So would firing you or taking any other negative action. When you file each complaint, you should tell them that your supervisor already threatened to retaliate against you. If there is any retaliation, DELEG or the EEOC will investigate it separately and you could be awarded thousands of dollars. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

P.S. Follow this link, scroll to the bottom of the page and read the comment by Cindy: http://blog.laborlawcenter.com/2006/08/10/wyoming-labor-law-board/

March 12, 2011 at 2:20 am

Our schedule for next week usually comes out on Wed or Thurs. We have a printed copy. The manager will usually change the sschedule mid-week without notifying anyone. Then, we show up late or don’t show up at all because we think we had the day off. What can we do about this?

Amelia

March 12, 2011 at 7:20 am

Hi Chris! You can check the schedule for changes each time you work, and call in on your days off to see if any changes have been made. There is nothing wrong with the manager changing the schedule in the middle of the week. We agree that it is unprofessional of her not to tell everyone that she has changed the schedule. Many managers would even call affected employees on their cell phone, if necessary, to ensure they work their newly scheduled shifts. But there is no law that the manager must do so.

You can certainly have a tactful conversation with the manager about this. What she is doing is not a best practice in HR, but it is also not illegal or unethical in any way in Michigan. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

March 15, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Okay, thanks. Man, Michigan labor lacks a lot of laws! I used to work at a bar too. Many times I would show up and they’d say, “We don’t need you, you can go home.” So, from what you said above, they legally should have paid us for 4 hours, huh?

Amelia

March 16, 2011 at 9:11 am

Hi Chris! No, Michigan does not have a reporting time law. The employee in Michigan is entiteld to payment for the time he works, but not any additional time. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Amelia

jeff

March 18, 2011 at 7:28 pm

I was woundering about overtime/ I know that they can make it mandatory in michigan as long as they pay time and a half but is it legal to make it manditory for some workers and optional for others? My job is manufacturing non-union paid by the hour, not a contract.

Amelia

March 19, 2011 at 7:54 am

Hi jeff! A Michigan employer can have different working conditions for employees in different jobs, as long as there is a valid business reason for doing so, and the employer is not committing illegal discrimination. For example, overtime could be required for employees on one segment of the line where equipment was down, and optional for others, where there was no shortage of equipment. Or, overtime could be mandatory for assembly-line employees but optional for office employees.

If the employer made overtime mandatory for male emploeyees but not for female employees with the same job, that would be illegal discrimination based on sex. But as long as the decision does not adversely affect members of a protected group (race, color, religion, national ancestry, etc.) then it is lawful. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Melanie

April 6, 2011 at 3:09 am

I live in Michigan and am employed full-time by my company’s definition. We are only scheduled for 7.5 hours, but our shifts are 8 hours. If I work my lunch, I know they have to pay me, but can they automatically deduct that half hour of pay by scheduling us only 7.5 hours? We don’t clock out or in for lunch, so there isn’t a way to prove whether or not we took a lunch.

Amelia

April 6, 2011 at 6:39 am

Hi Melanie! The employer cannot automatically deduct for a meal break that you do not take. When you work through your lunch, you are entitled to payment for that time, regardless of what the schedule says.

Under both the federal and Michigan minimum wage laws, an employee must be paid for all the time she works. Even if she works through lunch without the employer’s permission, or even if she works more hours than scheduled, she must be paid for that time. Both laws also require that the employer keep accurate payroll records, including records of any meal breaks taken (and the times they are taken.) So the employer owes you half an hour of pay for each day you skipped your lunch break.

You could file a wage complaint with the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth at http://www.michigan.gov/dleg. They will investigate, and if they find the employer owes you back wages, they will force the employer to pay you. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who files a complaint.

However, the employer can establish a policy that employees are to take an unpaid 30-minute meal break on an 8-hour shift. The employer can discipline or terminate any employee who does not follow this policy. So the long-term solution might be to take your meal break as scheduled. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Elizabeth

April 12, 2011 at 1:36 pm

I live in Michigan and work for a retail store part time. We are scheduled for call-ins. This requires us to call the store one hour before said call-in and be prepared to come into work if management decides they need staff. Does this fall into any “engaged to wait” policies? I read somewhere that we should be compensated for one hour of work if scheduled in such a manner.

Thanks in advance.

Amelia

April 12, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Hi Elizabeth! No, this does not fall into the “engaged to wait” policy. If the employer required you to come to work and sit there waiting until it was busy enough for you to clock in, that would be “engaged to wait.” Michigan has no reporting pay law, meaning that even if you were required to report to work and sent home immediately, you would not be entitled to payment. Even though these policies are legal, they are poor working conditions and you would be justified in looking for a better job. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Amelia

David McCleary

December 3, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Can you provide me with a cite for the following statement?

thanks

“During an unpaid meal break, a worker must be completely free of his or her work duties. If the employee is still required to do any duties (even minor duties such as answering a phone), it can’t be considered a meal or lunch period and must be paid.”

December 11, 2012 at 11:22 am

David,

There isn’t an exact law I can reference but the best way to search for the answer and validate would be to search meal break law for the state you’re operating in and you should land on the site to reference. If not, you can call your State department of labor for the answer.

mabus

June 27, 2014 at 8:27 pm

my employer take out an hour for unpaid lunch breaks even though i do not take a break so at the end of the pay period when i should have overtime hours i do no get paid for them.

Amelia

July 5, 2014 at 10:34 am

Mabus, this is unlawful. Both the federal and Michigan minimum wage law (the FLSA) requires that you be paid for all the time you work, and that you be paid overtime if you work more than 40 hours per week. So the employer is required to pay you, and you can file a claim for unpaid wages with LARA, the state agency that enforces this law.

However, there’s another side to this. If you are being told by your supervisor that you cannot take a meal break and have to work straight through, that’s one thing. But if you are choosing to skip your meal break, that’s quite different. Many Michigan employers would say it’s your responsibility to take the meal break under company policy. Although you are still entitled to payment for time worked, if you are choosing to work straight through without a meal break, you can be disciplined or terminated for not following company policy.

Ray Palmer

October 15, 2014 at 12:29 pm

My employer is making me take an hour lunch we work 9 hours a day they informed me i cannot take a haf hour or any thing if I clock out for half they said they will change it come pay day is this legal?

someone

October 24, 2014 at 6:45 am

Is it legal for an employer to only give two ten minute breaks and no lunch for 8 -12 hour shifts 5 days a week ? The employer I work for does this. We get paid for the whole 8 hours but no option to take a unpaid or paid meal break. In michigan. Thanks !

Mimi

November 2, 2014 at 10:17 am

I was just informed that I no longer get paid for hours worked over 12 hours in a day. The overtime comes after 40 hours. What is Michigan’s law.

greg

November 5, 2014 at 3:09 pm

My girl friend job is telling her she has to work 72 hours straight 12 hours during the day for 9.00 hr and for the 12 hour sleep shift 50.00 . Is this possible that’s not even 5.00 hr pay for the 12 hrs. She works at a group home for 2 handicapped ladies. Thanks for your help.

Shannon

November 13, 2014 at 11:56 am

I work for a company as a medical courier. I can drive anywhere from 100 to 450 miles per day. There isn’t a schedule because medical specimen draws are done sporadically. With that being said I only get in and out of the Company vehicle when entering and exiting the hospital, clinic, or gas station. No matter what my check is deducted for a 30 minute lunch break. In the meantime I am still answering text messages from my supervisor or answering the phone from Dispatch and I rarely actually take the 30 minutes to eat the entire time I am stuck in a company vehicle. Is this okay for them to do?

Sara

November 17, 2014 at 5:23 pm

Question. I recently went from being a contract processor for a company, to being hired on as a W2′d employee (we were told they wanted corporate processors and to not have the contract setup). Old mgt, fired, told us it would be a salaried plus bonus position. New management, said sorry, I can’t honor that. It will be an hourly position, plus small bonus (bonus paid monthly). We are required to be available for work (currently work from home) 9-5 Monday thru Friday. however, if they are slow, and I only have 4 hrs of work in one day (we now have to fill out time sheets), then we will only be paid for 4 hrs of work that day. This feels outright wrong! We are told we are “covered” for any light weeks by the bonus we get monthly. That also feels wrong. Bonus’s are taxed at a higher tax rate right off the back. I’m debating filing a complaint with the labor board, but want to make sure I have grounds to do so. Thank you for your help,

Kyle

November 21, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Sorry if someone asked this before, or if this is an old page that I shouldn’t use. I was just wondering if in Michigan, you can be forced to take an unpaid 30 minute lunch break if you are older than 18. Thanks

Amy

November 22, 2014 at 9:39 pm

My employer pays everyone cash. We all work 40 plus hours a week. Have a schedule we only make $5 a hr. The Manger keeps saying he does not have to pay the minimum wage. Per the state law. And when one employee said they was calling there attorney. And the labor board. Cut her house down. He said the labor board can not make him pay.

November 25, 2014 at 9:57 pm

Hi I was just wondering if an employer mandates you for a 16 hours shift if you get a 8 hour rest period before coming back the next day

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