Ask the Experts: Exempt Employees and Lunch Interruptions

Question: Our marketing coordinator is paid a weekly salary as an exempt administrator under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) classification and has demanded that her manager not interrupt her during her lunch period. Is she entitled to behave this way?

Answer: An employee should never make a demand of his or her manager, especially when the demand may be inappropriate. Presuming the employee is properly classified under the FLSA and is an exempt employee meeting all administrative tests, the employee is not entitled to a meal break under federal or state mandate. According to the FLSA, however, nonexempt employees should experience lunch without interruption. Any employee may be interrupted and permitted to later finish the meal break. It is professional etiquette and reasonable to expect that a manager would be respectful and not interrupt any employee’s lunch (whether exempt or nonexempt) unless there is a specific and urgent need to do so.