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Do you have a right to a lunch break?

When you get a new job, you probably assume a few things about your schedule, one of which is that you're going to get a meal break in the middle. For most workers on a standard schedule, this is a lunch break that happens around noon. Workers on different shifts may have similar breaks halfway through those shifts.

However, what if your employer says you can't have a break? Do you have a legal right to that downtime? Is your employer breaking the law by telling you that you can't have 15 minutes or a half an hour to eat your lunch?

According to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, though you may assume you should get a break, you don't have an legal right to one unless you are under 18. For adults, the state does not have any legal requirements regarding lunch breaks on the books at this time.

Moreover, there aren't any legal requirements regarding rest periods, either. Some employers will give their workers a break after the first few hours, for instance, even if they've not yet gotten to the lunch hour, but this is just a perk from the employer. If your boss decides to cancel your breaks for the day, or to do away with them all together, no laws are being broken.

Of course, you don't have any obligation to work there. Most employers understand that employees must eat and are willing to do the fair thing and give them at least a short amount of time off. Still, it's important to know exactly what your legal rights are and what things are just offered as part of your job.

Source: Michigan.gov, "Are employees required by law to have a meal or break period?," accessed May 19, 2016

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