‘The Unpaid Lunch Hour Is A Scam And Such A Strain On Workers’: Woman Says Workplaces Sneakily Made The Workday Longer

A woman sparked considerable debate after sharing a complaint about contemporary work culture.

While TikToker Jess (@genericjess420) “was told [work] was 9 to 5,” she says was unpleasantly surprised to learn that many modern jobs instead last from 8am until 5pm, typically broken up by an unpaid hour-long lunch break.

Jess’ video currently has over 298,000 views.

“How did they sneak this 8 to 5 on us?” she asks at the beginning of the video. “I thought it was 9 to 5. I was told it was 9 to 5!”

In the caption, she adds: “What do I need an hour lunch for… that’s not even my time I can’t do anything with it.”

Some commenters shared in Jess’ frustration.

“Dolly told us 9-5!!!” one user exclaimed.

“The unpaid lunch hour is a scam and such a strain on workers,” another claimed.

As for how work culture got this way, some users have theories.

“So basically it started as a 9-5 with a paid 30 minute lunch and then they decided they didn’t wanna pay lunch but wanted the full 8 hours sooo…8-5,” one TikToker speculated.

“It was 9-5 AND they paid for your lunch break & retirement — now it’s 8-5 with an unpaid lunch break and 401k,” another shared. “We have been robbed.”

A similar question about the shifting nature of our “9 to 5” was posed to Rex Huppke of the Chicago Tribune in 2011.

The article notes that, while “9 to 5” has never been a true national standard for a workday, those hours became a common understanding of a typical workday following the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938.

Over time, however, union participation of workers in the U.S. dissolved and the role of the American worker changed. These two factors, Robert J.S. Ross, a professor of sociology at Clark University in Massachusetts, told the Tribune are what led to a dramatic change in how people view their workday.

Specifically, the view of lunchtime has shifted, with many being pressured to work during a period when they, in previous years, would have been on break.

“One of the things that has really eroded over the last couple of decades is lunching… That is an aspect of the time pressure and the work pressure,” Ross said. “It’s expected, and people do it to themselves as well as their employers doing it to them — people eat at their desks.”

The United States has no federal regulations requiring a lunch break. However, some states have break requirements, depending on the number of hours worked. These breaks are not required to be paid.

Jess argues in comments that adding an additional unpaid hour to her day should classify that period as personal time. Nonetheless, she notes that in practice, it is rarely viewed as such.

“It’s not ‘my time’ if I can’t use it to leave early,” she wrote.

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