Are employers allowed to require their employees attend work related meetings where food is provided without being compensated for that time?
I am a non-union, non-exempt hourly "at-will" employee in the state of Georgia. I work a 40 hour week of 9 hour days including a one hour non-paid meal period per day. Lately our company has heartily embraced "business lunch meetings", where we are required to attend and/or participate in a meeting. Food is provided. We are required to use our meal period for these meetings, meaning we don't get paid for an hour of the meeting.
According to the Fair Labor Standards Act
, if a meal period is provided, "the employee must be completely relieved from duty for the purpose of eating regular meals. The employee is not relieved if he/she is required to perform any duties, whether active or inactive, while eating." It seems to me that participating in a meeting or even just attending is in conflict with this. On the same page FLSA also indicates, "attendance at lectures, meetings, training programs and similar activities need not be counted as working time only if four criteria are met, namely: it is outside normal hours, it is voluntary, not job related, and no other work is concurrently performed."
The information at the Georgia Department of Labor
site regarding meal periods seems to agree with this (and also indicates the state doesn't require a meal period be given at alll). I don't want to cause an uproar with my company, but I strongly feel as if they are technically requiring us to work during these meetings and therefore we should be paid for this time. I previously tried to address this issue with HR, however they never got back to me with an answer either way. I'd like to first know whether I have a legitimate complaint before addressing it with them again.
Are these sorts of "business lunch meetings" acceptable in the state of Georgia? If not, is there something the company can do to make these meetings an acceptable use of our non-compensated lunch period, such as requiring we attend the meeting, but providing an hour of non-work related down time when the food is made available? If the company is doing something in the wrong, what avenues do I have to try to convince them of this without jeopardizing my job?