Automatic Lunch Deduction

Do any of you automatically deduct the lunch period from the employee's time? We have an issue with hourly employees "milking the clock" by either not taking a lunch break or bringing a sandwich and eating it quickly at their desk or in the breakroom (taking less than 30 minutes)in order to get paid for the lunch break.

I am sure we are losing untold dollars in compensation by doing this. We have a policy that everyone is to take a lunch break unless it is approved by the supervisor, but if it's not enforced, then it's useless.

Instead of battling this, we are considering the auto deduction and then employee has to notify supervisor as to why he did not take his mandated lunch break?

Any words of wisdom pro or con?


  • 9 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • I think it would be a better bet to enforce the policy. A few disciplines and they may see the light.
  • We've been using an automatic deduction for lunch for several years. A 1/2 hour lunch is programmed into everyone's schedule in the time and attendance / payroll system. Not perfect, but it does help considerably. Those who took less lunch time hoping to leave early can no longer do that and get away with it. The only problem is those who take a long lunch - their supervisor must pay attention and manually adjust their time.
  • You need managers to enforce the policy. Is it because they are not given the opportunity to get away for the 1/2 hour or because they get to leave early? Leaving early doesn't hurt the budget but working through lunch and staying the full day costs 1/2 hour of overtime for that day. If it's a problem getting your supervisors on board to enforce the policy, present them with a spreadsheet that shows what it costs from their budget each month. Maybe give them a crash course in FLSA that pertains to breaks and overtime.
  • SMoll: Not a case of leaving early. Case of padding the clock for overtime. I'd certainly choose the option of supervisors enforcing the policy - otherwise...we don't have much of a choice but to keep absorbing this cost or auto deducting.
  • We've had the automatic deduction of a 30 minute lunch break for years, maybe forever. Kronos is programmed to make the auto deduct and wages are paid accordingly. Nobody wants to work through lunch here. I think a manager would faint outright if he saw anyone working during lunch break. Then I'd get to try out this $4000 defibrillator.
  • We are starting the automatic lunch break this week due to no one ever punches out for lunch although they take it they just do not want to spend the 2 minutes it would take to walk to the machine and punch/scan in and out.

  • Regardless of automatizing the 1/2-hour lunch break, it's still important to enforce the policy that everyone is expected to take their full 1/2-hour lunch, and that OT must be pre-authorized. Once that expectation is in place, and communicated to your employees, anyone who "works" through his/her lunch can be admonished appropriately (and of course paid any applicable overtime). FLSA expects employers to hold employees accountable to their work-hours policies -- to the point of discipline, if necessary. Otherwise, you lose your defense if challenged by an employee who claims the company owes for past unpaid overtime. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
  • We also have an automatic 1/2 hour deduction for lunch. I make a point of it in the interview, and employees will indicate (with supervisor initials) on their timecard if they do not take a lunch. Most of my salaried employees do not punch out for lunch, which I don't care for, but I pick my battles.

    We go a step further and have our time clock round to start times. If they punch in up to 15 minutes early, it rounds to their start time. If they actually begin work, they do the supervisor initial thing. That isn't my favorite policy - kind of hard to identify hours actually worked, but we have a culture and timeclock placement that you punch in when you walk in the door, put your lunch away, get a drink of water, and make your way to your work area, saying hello to your buddies on the way.

    Thankfully we're getting a new software system that will hopefully "fix" this . . . wouldn't it be nice if supervisors could just enforce things? I've only been at this job for 7 months (versus 44 years for the second-in-command who has 1950s HR policies) so I'm trying to not step on toes, but some days I want to kick things.
  • We have had this (automatic 30 min. lunch set with time clock) at one of our plants for years and years. (I am actually trying to get them to change it to punching in and out.) The good of it is that it is easy for lazy employees and "forces" employees to take their time.
    I have read (somewhere) that the Labor dept does allow this. However, you had better hope you don't get any complaints because could be tough to prove if employees say they worked through lunch and were not paid for it.
    Also, we had an employee who was actually eating his lunch at his worksite and was "autommatically clocked out". He had a heart attach and died. Luckily we had a nice family who didn't contest it not being on the job or anything else. This could get touchy as well.
    You may make a few enemies when you start it, but some will actually like it. Now you will have to worry about and enforce employees getting back to work on time. Go for it an good luck.

    E Wart
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