The Suzhou Huqiu District People’s Court reportedly upheld an employee’s overtime pay claim for meal time during overtime hours. The employee reportedly worked for a local precision instruments molding company. The employee often worked for 11 hours per day (under the law, any hours in excess of eight hours per day is generally considered overtime hours) and in addition had one hour of meal time that was taken during overtime hours. The company provided him three hours of overtime pay per day.
After the company terminated him, he brought an overtime claim for his meal time. He asserted that when he took time for his meals, the machines he was working with were operating without break and that if he did not do some work during meal time, he would fall further behind in his work. The court held that the meal time during overtime hours should therefore be counted as working hours for overtime pay purposes. The court ordered the company to pay RMB 150 as overtime pay for the meal time hours during his three months of employment with the company.
This case shows that companies cannot just automatically assume that meal time will never be considered working hours and that courts will sometimes look into whether the employee was really resting during the entire meal time when deciding working hour and overtime pay cases.