New Jersey’s wage and hour laws protect workers’ rights to earn a minimum wage and receive overtime compensation. While these are perhaps the most well-known rights under state law, New Jersey protects other rights regarding workers’ compensation. New Jersey does not require employers to provide most workers with breaks for meals or rest, except for paid meal breaks for employees under the age of eighteen. Other workers could be entitled to pay during their meal breaks if their employer requires them to remain at work during that time.
When “Hours Worked” May Include Meal Breaks
A state regulation requires employers to include “[a]ll the time the employee is required to be at his or her place of work or on duty” in the computation of how many hours that employee has worked. If employees are free to take a meal break anywhere they want, that time is likely to be unpaid. An employer that requires employees to remain at their desks or workstations during meal breaks, however, might be required to pay them for that time.
New Jersey courts have noted that the regulation does not define “place of work.” In an unpublished decision from June 2020, a New Jersey federal court considered whether mandatory security screenings at the end of the workday should count as paid time under New Jersey law. The court applied a two-part test to determine whether a location counts as a “place of work”: (1) the employer controls or mandates activity in that area, and (2) the activity mainly benefits the employer. It ruled that the security screenings satisfied the test. In another ruling in the same case, issued in 2021, the court ruled that mandatory COVID tests administered at the beginning of the workday might also satisfy the “place of work” test.