Postal worker complains that his lunch time isn’t his own

March 5, 2019

By Carrie Mason-Draffen


DEAR CARRIE: I work for the U.S. Postal Service as a letter carrier. We receive 35 minutes of unpaid lunch time. During this time of nonpayment, we are still responsible for the security of the mail in the postal vehicle, even if that means staying with the truck. If I am responsible for the mail, shouldn’t I be paid for that time? — Feeling Robbed

DEAR FEELING: Yes, you should, said Irv Miljoner, the former head of the Long Island, N.Y., office of the U.S. Department of Labor. “If they are not free to go and do what they want, if they are engaged to wait and stay with their equipment or mail, then that’s hours worked,” said Miljoner.

And if your lunchtime work pushes you over 40 hours in a workweek, you would be eligible for overtime for those extra hours, he said. Under federal law overtime is one and one-half times a worker’s average hourly rate.

Here is some additional information from the Labor Department’s Fact Sheet 22, which defines hours worked.

“The workweek ordinarily includes all time during which an employee is necessarily required to be on the employer’s premises, on duty or at a prescribed workplace.” It looks as if you are going to have to talk to your employer about giving you a true lunch break or paying you for that time. If you are a union member, you should also check with your representative.

Carrie Mason-Draffen is a columnist for Newsday and the author of “151 Quick Ideas to Deal With Difficult People.” Readers may send her email at carrie.draffen@newsday.com.