When are meal breaks paid?

In most states, a break that is more than 20 minutes does not need to be paid – UNLESS the employee performs work during the break.  A health system in Detroit had an automatic rule in its payroll system that deducted 30 minutes for a meal break.  In and of itself, this is not a problem.  What was a problem, is that the employees routinely worked through their lunch breaks.  Moreover, the employer never created an exception or methodology for tracking these breaks during which work occurred, so that it could override the automatic 30 minute payroll deduction.  The U.S. Department of Labor investigated and the employer ended up paying almost $50,000 in backpay to the affected workers.