Author Topic: Meal breaks  (Read 4627 times)

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Just Lori

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Meal breaks
« on: December 28, 2012, 10:05:01 AM »
Regionmom's thread about her poor kids who worked from morning to nearly midnight with one meal break brought this to mind.  How can one politely assert the need to eat during the day?

I work very part-time for a retail establishment.  My shifts often overlap a meal time, like 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  Our owners do not offer meal breaks.  I typically bring a sandwich and gobble it down in spurts while I'm looking for something in the stock room.  It's not perfect, but it keeps my blood sugar level and my stomach growls silent.  Plus, it helps that the owners are not on site to "catch" me eating.

However, there are occasions when the owners come in for day-long training or other projects.  The owners will work a full day without taking a break for lunch, which is fine for them.  The employees - most of the employees are high school and college aged - don't feel comfortable stopping to eat, because they're taking the lead from the owners.  So you wind up with hungry, grumpy employees at the end of the shifts.

Is there any way to politely ask to take a quick break to eat, even though the owners themselves don't seem to need one?  Please, let's not make this a legal argument.  I've checked local laws, and they are not breaking any.  I'm one of those people who really needs to have a midday meal, otherwise I get shaky and irritable.  I have no problem clocking out for 10 minutes, so I don't expect to be paid while I eat.  But I feel like such a wimp for asking.

kckgirl

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Re: Meal breaks
« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2012, 10:08:40 AM »
It doesn't matter if it's legal or not, or what the owners do. People need to eat regularly. They are the strange ones. Not you. Tell them, don't ask, that you need to take a few minutes to eat the lunch that you brought. Then do it.
Maryland

LeveeWoman

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Re: Meal breaks
« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2012, 10:56:23 AM »
It might be legal but it's not ethical to refuse to allow your employees to take care of their bodies.

MrTango

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Re: Meal breaks
« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2012, 11:17:42 AM »
OP, I'm sorry if I may have missed it in the OP, but has anyone ever actually asked the owners if it would be okay for them to take a short break?

If they balk, you might point out that the lost productivity for the 10-15 minutes you are on break would likely be more than made up for due to no longer being hungry (and increased morale).

LadyClaire

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Re: Meal breaks
« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2012, 11:45:36 AM »
I'd go ahead and ask about getting at least a 15 minute meal break.

I used to work a very casual part-time job, too, that usually went from 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM. It was just one or two days a week, but I didn't get meal breaks. I was a test proctor for IT certification tests, so it was in a computer lab. I was the only proctor and no food was allowed in the labs, and there was never a break between testers coming and going. So I had to go without eating all day when I was working. It absolutely sucked, especially since I often throw up the first thing I put in my stomach if I go too long without eating. So I'd usually have what I called a sacrificial banana or crackers when I got home, because I knew I was just going to puke it back up before I could actually eat.

nuit93

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Re: Meal breaks
« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2012, 11:59:49 AM »
I agree with the other posters who suggested asking if it's okay to take a meal break.

Also, double check with your state/country labor laws to see if you are legally entitled to one.

lowspark

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Re: Meal breaks
« Reply #6 on: December 28, 2012, 12:10:31 PM »
So you're working six hours straight without any kind of a break at all? Just wondering, do any smokers work there? Surely you can take a bathroom break, right?

Yeah, I'd just politely inform the owners that I need a 10 minute break to grab something to eat as I cannot go six hours with nothing at all to eat. I don't think it's wimpy at all to ask. I've never worked a job where you weren't allowed a break if you worked more than four hours.

TootsNYC

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Re: Meal breaks
« Reply #7 on: December 28, 2012, 12:37:26 PM »
I agree with the other posters who suggested asking if it's okay to take a meal break.

Also, double check with your state/country labor laws to see if you are legally entitled to one.

Meal breaks, at least in the U.S., are generally covered by state laws, not local ones. As are regulations about how long you can be asked to work without a break--state law normally as well.

But as this is not a legal forum, I offer that only as an observation of general trends.

From the etiquette point of view, I think you should go to whoever is directly over your head and say, "I need to eat at roughly mealtimes. How can we arrange that?"

Just Lori

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Re: Meal breaks
« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2012, 01:03:12 PM »
Thank you for validating my need to eat a midday meal.  I do wonder if this is a power thing on the owners' part - "I can go eight hours without eating, so those who can't are not as awesome as I."

As far as bathroom breaks go, yes, we have a restroom we can use at will, but I don't want to eat there.   :P  I'll just continue to bring my sandwich in, and if the owners say anything, I'll tell them that it's in everyone's best interests for me to eat at regular intervals.  Otherwise they're not going to want me dealing with customers or climbing ladders to get the shirt that's on display, because people always seem to want the display shirt when I'm working!

camlan

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Re: Meal breaks
« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2012, 03:05:22 PM »
Agreeing with Toots that you should check your state labor laws. Most states that I have worked in have had provisions for breaks. The following isn't legal advice, it's just fact. Federal law requires that short breaks, of 5-20 minutes, be paid. Longer meal breaks, of 30 minutes, are unpaid.

Just because the owners aren't "offering" breaks doesn't mean you can't ask for them. Do all the employees think they'll be fired if they ask for 15 minutes to eat a sandwich? Do they all think they will get in trouble if they are caught eating something over a 6-8 hour shift?

I'd find out the law for my state. Then I'd go to my immediate supervisor and tell them I need the break and ask what would be a good time for me to take it.
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” –Audrey Hepburn


lowspark

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Re: Meal breaks
« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2012, 03:07:35 PM »
Yeah, I didn't mean to eat in the bathroom. Just that it's got to be ok to walk off the desk (so to speak) for a few minutes. You do it to go to the bathroom. If there are smokers, I'm guessing they take smoke breaks. So if you need 10 minutes to go outside or some other place to have a quick sandwich, it amounts to the same thing.

MOM21SON

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Re: Meal breaks
« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2012, 03:31:08 PM »
I'd go ahead and ask about getting at least a 15 minute meal break.

I used to work a very casual part-time job, too, that usually went from 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM. It was just one or two days a week, but I didn't get meal breaks. I was a test proctor for IT certification tests, so it was in a computer lab. I was the only proctor and no food was allowed in the labs, and there was never a break between testers coming and going. So I had to go without eating all day when I was working. It absolutely sucked, especially since I often throw up the first thing I put in my stomach if I go too long without eating. So I'd usually have what I called a sacrificial banana or crackers when I got home, because I knew I was just going to puke it back up before I could actually eat.

I have this exact same issue!  People think I am crazy!  If I go past that window without eating, I am done, nothing will stay down.  When it happens now, I eat a yogurt, very very slowly.  Like it takes me a whole hour or more to eat the whole thing. I think it helps a lot that no chewing is involved.

OP, I think you need yo ask for a short break.  eating is a need.

Winterlight

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Re: Meal breaks
« Reply #12 on: December 28, 2012, 07:53:32 PM »
Thank you for validating my need to eat a midday meal.  I do wonder if this is a power thing on the owners' part - "I can go eight hours without eating, so those who can't are not as awesome as I."

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rose red

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Re: Meal breaks
« Reply #13 on: December 28, 2012, 08:36:10 PM »
I agree you should check the state laws.  My workplace told us we have to take our breaks even if we don't want to, or they will get in trouble

Iris

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Re: Meal breaks
« Reply #14 on: December 28, 2012, 09:17:54 PM »
I would definitely ask, but then I am like the Incredible Hulk of food. "Don't make me hungry. You won't like me when I'm hungry."

"Can't do anything with children, can you?" the woman said.

Poirot thought you could, but forebore to say so.