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Apr28

Illinois Lunch and Rest Breaks

I live in Illinois and when working 6 hours a day are you required to take a 30 min lunch break and what about rest breaks? Are they required as well?

There are two facets to this question: What breaks are required by Illinois law? and, What breaks can be required by the employer?

There are 19 states that have laws requiring meal breaks for workers. There are 7 states that require rest breaks for workers. Illinois is among both groups. However, the Illinois rest and meal break laws are by far the most restrictive. In fact, according to the US Department of Labor website, the Illinois break laws apply only to workers in one occupation, in one city.

Under state law in Illinois, hotel room attendants or maids are entitled to 2 15-minute rest breaks and one 30 minute meal break in each workday of 7 hours or longer. However, the law applies only to hotels in a county with a population of more than 3 million. The only such county in Illinois is Cook County, where Chicago is located.

So under state law, Illinois employers are only required to give breaks to employees who happen to be hotel room attendants in Cook County.

However, as alert reader G.L. has pointed out, under Illinois law employees who work 7.5 hours or more are entitled to a 20-minute unpaid meal break. It must be given no later than 5 hours after the start of the shift.

The break law excludes employees whose breaks are established under a collective bargaining agreement such as a union contract. Different break standards apply to workers who monitor or mentor handicapped workers, especially those with developmental disabilities.

Most Illinois employers are under no legal obligation to give breaks to workers. However, the employer may give such breaks if he or she likes. And, the employer can legally make those breaks mandatory. This is the employer’s choice. An employer could even discipline or terminate an employee who refused to take such breaks.

For an Illinois employee who is not a hotel maid in Cook County, the employer can give a 30-minute meal break on a 6 hour shift, or the employer can give no breaks on a 6 hour shift. It’s entirely up to the employer.

This entry was posted on Monday, April 28th, 2008 at 8:54 pm and is filed under
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137 Responses to “Illinois Lunch and Rest Breaks”

  1. G. L. DeReus Says:

    An employee who is to work 7 1/2 continuous hours or more shall be provided an unpaid meal period of at least 20 minutes. The meal period must be given to an employee no later than 5 hours after beginning work. Illinois has no law regarding breaks. 820 ILCS 140/3.

  2. Tamara Riner Says:

    They need to change that law anyone working 7.5 or more should get a half hour lunch and 2 10 minute breaks. The federal government gives that to their employees and should be the same for everyone.

  3. Mark Gorke Says:

    I have a exempt employee who does not want to take a lunch break and leave early to pick up a child at daycare. Is this legal that I allow this exempt employee to do this or does she need to take a lunch break in the middle of the day?

  4. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Mark! That’s a fascinating question! It seems reasonable that if the employee wants to skip her break and leave early, and it’s okay with the employer, it should be allowed.
    Unfortunately, as we all know, the law is not always reasonable.
    Many states exclude salary exempt employees from the meal break law. Illinois does not.
    The Illinois meal break statute actually only excludes employees under two circumstances: 1)A collective bargaining agreement, or 2)An employee who monitors individuals with mental illness or developmental disabilities, and therefore must be available continously.
    If neither of these applies to your employee, she must take a 20-minute unpaid meal break when she is completely relieved of all duties, daily.
    It’s possible that if you and the employee entered into a written contract to forego her meal breaks, it would be legal, but you would be wise to have it drawn up by a competent attorney specializing in labor law.

  5. Christine Says:

    If an employer makes breaks, not meals, a requirement, are they paid or unpaid? I have a situation where an employer is making all of his installers take 2 15 minute breaks and one 1/2 hour meal break both without pay. Is this correct in Illinois?

  6. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Christine! This is probably not correct. Under federal law (the FLSA), any break of less than 20 minutes must be paid. Assuming that the employer is large enough to be covered under federal law, he or she would have to pay the installers for the two 15 minute breaks. The half-hour meal break could be unpaid.

    Thanks for a great question! Caitlin

  7. Linda Says:

    I just started working a retail sales job. I told my employer I was available to work three 5-hour shifts per week. I have been scheduled for 5-hour shifts, but they require me to take a 1/2 hour unpaid lunch – which means I am only working 4 1/2 hr. shifts.

    Is this correct? I think I should just get a 15-minute break and no lunch. They said if I work over 5 hours I have to take a 1/2 hour break. But if I take a 1/2 hour unpaid break I am only working 4 1/2 hrs.

    This doesnt make sense to me. Please advise. Thanks

  8. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Linda! Under Illinois law, any employee who is scheduled for 5 hours or more must be given an unpaid meal break of 20 minutes. This employer is erring on the side of caution by making it a 30-minute break. Yes, they can legally do that. In most cases, it is the employer and not the employee who determines the work schedule. Even if you were in a state with no break laws, the employer could require that you clock out for a break. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  9. Alissa Says:

    Hi, could you please tell me the IL laws for breastfeeding mothers. I have run into some problems with pumping at work and Friday was pulled aside for running a few minutes late on lunch time. Basicly I was told they only will give me 30mins and I need to just figure out how to fit pumping in on my own! I don’t even have a private designated room either! I am told to use the doctor’s office or the last patient room. These both do not lock so I always ask which to use everyday because I don’t want someone walking in on me while I am exposed. I know that IL requires employers to give breastfeeding mothers pumping time at work but to what extent? I thought they had to give me an additional 15 minute break following one that was unpaid? My lactation consultant told me I need to get in 2 pumpings during an 8 hour day or risk supply issues and possible infection from mastitis. What should I do? Do I require a doctor’s note? I am at a total loss and the worst thing is I am getting grief at a doctor’s office!!! And they knew I would require time to pump when I was interviewed and hired me anyway. Please advise and thank you.

  10. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Alissa! Yes, the Illinois Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Law or 820 ILCS 260, passed in July 2001 applies to employers with 5 or more employees. The law requires Illinois employers to make a reasonable effort to provide a private location, other than a toilet stall, for mothers to pump breast milk. Usually that is interpreted as meaning a room with a door that locks.
    In addition, employers are required to make a reasonable effort to provide mothers with sufficient unpaid time to express milk. Mothers can be asked/required to do so during their regular unpaid breaks. However, unless it will completely disrupt the employers operations, additional time must be given if required by the mother. Usually, the mother and her employer reach a mutual agreement on this issue.
    Consult with your employer again to try to reach a compromise about this issue. Offer to provide a doctor’s note if required. If you still don’t receive cooperation, contact the Illinois Department of Labor to file a complaint. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  11. Brian Says:

    I’ve been working retail for quite some time now and my usual shift ranges 6-12 hours long, most of these do not come with any form of break or meal. I’m a supervisor thus i’m not allowed to leave the floor unless another manager/supervisor can take my place which is rarely the case. What can one do about this? i’ve mentioned it previously and i’ve gotten SOME lunches but not very many. About 5% of my days worked have a lunch.

  12. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Brian! The Illinois One Day Rest In Seven Act includes a provision that requires employers to give an unpaid meal break of at least 20 minutes to employees who work a shift of 7.5 hours or more. The meal break must occur within the first 5 hours of work. If your employer is regularly violating this law, you can certainly report him or her to the Illinois Department of Labor.

    Many states have exemptions for a wide number of employees under the break law. Illinois does not. It generally exempts only those who supervise developmentally challenged individuals, or those who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

    Many employers solve this dilemma for managers by permitting them to take a break, but requiring that the manager remain on the property or available by cell phone for emergencies. If there is another manager working with you, you can offer to relieve him or her for a break first. Presumably, they will reciprocate when they return. HTH, and thanks for posting an interesting question! ~ Caitlin

    Read more about this law at: http://www.state.il.us/agency/idol/laws/Law140.htm

  13. Cindy Says:

    I work 10hr days and I get a 30min UNPAID break. My question, is my employer allowed to not to let me leave for this break? It’s an Il employer. I feel it’s my time they are not paying me and I should be able to leave.

  14. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Cindy! Yes, under both federal and Illinois law, employees can be required to remain on the premises during an unpaid meal break. As long as the employee is relieved of her duties, and the break is 20 minutes or more, the break can be unpaid. For a more complete answer, you can post your question on our sister site at http://www.laborlawtalk.com. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Caitlin

  15. Jason Says:

    I work in a manufacturing facility as a team leader. I am required to frequently stay over with no notice and work as much as 14 hours. We are on an attendance point system and it is reported by my managers that failing to stay will be punished by points added towards termination.
    I was wondering if there is a limit to the amount of hours an employer in illinois can make his employees work in one day? Is there a time in which the schedule must be disclosed to the workers? Can they really make me stay with little notice?

  16. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Jason! Unfortunately, yes, the employer can do this. Employers in Illinois and almost every state can make employees work overtime with little or no notice. It is considered a best practice in HR to give employees as much notice as possible. However, sometimes, as when a deadline looms or a coworker calls in sick, that is impossible. There is no limit to the number of hours that an Illinois employer can require employees to work. An employer can require 100 hours per week or more (although that is not recommended.) For a more complete discussion, post your question on our sister site at http://www.laborlawtalk.com. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  17. gerry Says:

    I work for an illinois national retail chain.
    We get 2 10 minute breaks and a 1 hour lunch break per day
    During our 10 minute breaks they(management) always interupt us about business or even require us to go back out on the floor,negating the break.
    Is this legal?

  18. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Gerry! Yes, it is legal. Illinois is one of 19 states that has a law requiring meal breaks for virtually all employees. (Each employee is entitled to an unpaid meal break of at least 20 minutes.) However, the state does not require any shorter rest breaks.

    Under federal law, employees must be paid for breaks shorter than 20 minutes. The best practice in HR would be for the managers to permit employees to take breaks undisturbed. Research has shown that employees who take two breaks per day are more productive. However, there is no law that employees must be allowed those breaks in Illinois. If you are working under a union contract, that takes precedence on this issue. You can also post your quesiton on our sister site at http://www.laborlawtalk.com. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Caitlin

  19. Marcus Says:

    Does Illinois State law REQUIRE an employee to take lunch breaks, or does it just require an employer to offer lunch breaks? If I am a non-exempt hourly employee, can I work through my lunch and be paid for it?

  20. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Marcus! In some states, an employee has the right to refuse required meal breaks, as long as the employee does so in advance, in writing. Illinois law offers no such provision. The law requires the employer to provide an unpaid meal break of 20 minutes or longer, before the fifth hour, for any employee scheduled to work 7.5 hours or more.
    So if an Illinois employer offered an employee a meal break,and that break was declined, the employer would be violating the law just as much as if Illinois employer did not offer the employee a break.

    The relevant law is 820 ILCAS 140/3, Chapter 48, Paragraph 8c, also known as the One Day Rest in Seven Act.

    The fine for violation is up to $100 for each offense. So if an Illinois employee refuses to take the unpaid 20-minute meal break, the employer could be fined $100 each day, per employee.

    If an employee works through his or her scheduled break, the emplyee must be paid. An Illinois employer can and probably should discipline any employee who does not take the break.

    We are certain that some Illinois employees and employers have an informal agreement that the employee will work through his or her break and be paid for it. But technically, when the employee does so, the employer is breaking the law.
    For more info, you can also post your question on our sister site at http://www.laborlawtalk.com. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  21. Chuck Says:

    Hi –Illnois question here.
    My employer provides for 2 paid 15 minute rest periods for shifts of 8 hrs or more, and also has an unpaid meal time –30 minutes. If an hourly employee works a shift from 9 AM to 5:30 PM, may he or she combine the two 15 minute paid breaks in lieu of the unpaid lunch (i.e. work 8 hours and be paid for 8.5) or must the breaks and the unpaid meal period all be taken?(work 7.5 hours and be paid for 8) This would seem to juggle Illinois and Federal laws and perhaps company policy –
    Thanks and looking forward to Thanksgiving!

  22. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Chuck! Illinois requires that most employees receive a meal break of 20 minutes or more. The meal break may be unpaid, as long as the employee is relieved of duty. There is no requirement under federal law for any meal breaks for workers over the age of 16. Nor does federal law require that workers have rest breaks.

    Illinois only requires rest breaks for hotel maids in the city of Chicago. If you work elsewhere, or you don’t work as a hotel maid, the employer is not required to give you the two 15-minute rest breaks. Under both federal and state law, if you combined the two 15-minute breaks to a 30-minute meal break, the employer would be under no obligation to pay you for it. Under federal law, employees must be paid for breaks that are shorter than 20 minutes. But when you combine your two 15-minute breaks, they are no longer shorter than 20 minutes.
    What you are really talking about is eliminating your two 15-minute paid breaks. Many employers would not permit that, because it has been shown to interfer with productivity. In other places of employment, you would be permitted to work through your breaks — but that doesn’t mean the employer would have to pay you, for your meal break. You can also post your questions on our sister site at http://www.laborlawtalk.com. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  23. Amanda Says:

    Hey- I have two really important questions and I’ve looked everywhere, but I cannot find any answers. I’m 16 (almost 17) years old, but I really do not think that matters in these situations, but just in case…

    I work for a food-chain, but the restaurant is not run from corporate, but privately owned. At work, I am allowed to leave at 8 at night, when I start at 5 in the afternoon, even though my shift does not officially end until 8:30, but I usually leave at 8 unless it is still busy. I also work for 6 hours a shift on the weekends, but that doesn’t matter in the case. During work, a break of thirty minutes is AUTOMATICALLY taken from the hours I work that day. But my employer changed the rule and now employees cannot take a break before 8, even if it isn’t busy. But because I leave at 8, a half-an-hour break is deducted from my pay, yet I am not allowed to take my break. So essentially, I work for thirty minutes and do not get paid for it. But I could wait until 8:30, taking my break at 8, but I would rather leave because there’s no point to wait at work for 30 minutes when I could leave. Is there any Illinois or Federal Law Statute mentioning anything about a break automatically deducted but not be able to take it or it serves no point to? Any info at all would really be appreciated.

    I also have another question that really irritates me (this is at the same place): if I am allowed an unpaid 30 minute break and pretty much forced to take one or I work for no pay for 30 minutes, do I have to stay at work, or can I leave for those 30 minutes? At work, we must stay for the unpaid break and we are not allowed to bring outside food or drink, so we must buy food from the restaurant. But what if I do not want to eat food there, what if I want food from somewhere else or I want to return home for 30 minutes. Is that allowed? Must I remain on premises for a thirty minutes unpaid break without being able to bring my own food? I am not even allowed to go out to my car during my break or even leave the building, even if I stay on the property.

    If anyone could answer these questions that would really be incredibly helpful. If anyone does have any information, could they point me toward any proof (laws, statutes, etc) that I could show my boss? If you have any questions or do not understand, just ask and I’ll try to clear it up. fThanks for reading and have a great Thanksgiving!

  24. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Amanda,

    You are right that there is no Illinois or federal law that specifically requires additional meal breaks for employees under the age of 18. Illinois law requires that an employer give an unpaid meal break of 20 minutes or more to anyone who is scheduled 7.5 hours or more. The break must be within the first 5 hours of work.

    Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act or FLSA, employees are entitled to payment for all hours worked. So an employer cannot sutomatically deduct 30 minutes pay, for a break that you never get to take. Here’s the link:http://www.dol.gov/compliance/laws/comp-flsa.htm (Illinois law also requires that employees be paid for all time worked.)

    However, the employer is entirely justified in not permitting employees to take a break until 8 pm, when it is not as busy. To be successful, a restaurant must be run for the convenience of the customers, not the employees. Any restaurant that is not, will not be in business very long (so you probably wouldn’t want to work there, anyway.)

    If you work from 5 pm to 8 pm without a break, you should be paid for 3 hours. However, the employer would be justified in setting a rule that every employee must take a half-hour break on a shift of 3 hours or more. In that case, the employer could require that you work from 5 pm to 8:30 pm and take your break from 8:00 pm to 8:30 pm. You would still be paid for 3 hours. (We agree that this is silly, but the employer could do it.) The employer could even fire an employee who neglected to take her break on a shift over 3 hours, if that was the company policy.

    The federal Fair Labor Standards Act regulations specifically state that an employer can require the employee to remain on the premises during an unpaid meal break. And, this is a very common policy.

    Federal, state and local health codes prohibit restaurant employees from bringing food from home and putting it in restaurant coolers, freezers, microwaves, etc. This is because the food may carry salmonella or other harmful bacteria, which could contaminate the restaurant food, grow, and potentially make diners sick, or even kill them.

    If a health inspector found your turkey sandwich in the restaurant cooler, he could shut down the restaurant and maybe even put them out of business. So restaurant managers don’t allow this. However, there should be nothing to prevent you from bringing a granola bar, protein bar, cheese & crackers, sandwich or other snack and keeping it in your purse to eat during your break. (It’s the nature of the restaurant business that you will probably be eating your main meal before 5 pm or after 8:30 pm.)

    For more info, you can also post your questions on our sister site at http://www.laborlawtalk.com. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  25. Terry Koehler Says:

    I work in a nursing home as an hourly employee. All nursing staff are now required to work 12 hour shifts. They will be giving 2 – 30 minute breaks, unpaid. Do we have to take both breaks?
    Thank you for the information

  26. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Terry! The short answer is yes, the employer can require you to take both breaks. The Illinois One Day Rest in Seven Act requires that each employee who works a shift of 7.5 hours or more, have a meal break of 20 minutes or more. The break must occur before the 5th hour of work. The law doesn’t specifically require a second meal break, but it is reasonable for employers to provide it. If you read our mail, you would find a lot of questions from employees who are required to work 12 to 16 hours without any break at all, so your employer is acting reasonably.
    Employers can set any reasonable policy requiring breaks, and can terminate employees who refuse to take them. For more info, post your question on our sister site at http://www.laborlawtalk.com. HTH,and thanks for posting a comment!~Caitlin

  27. Debra McFarland Says:

    Hi a sister company located in Illinois complains that by state law they are not only eligible for a paid 30 min lunch, but also states the company must pick up the tab for all food purchases that employees have while working as buyers out on the road. I can find nothing to support this or prove it to be false??? The company does recycling and the buyers purchase recyclables from other recyclers.

  28. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Debra!
    Um, we believe that the Illinois employees are confused, to say the least.
    Under the Illinois One Day Rest in Seven Act, an Illinois employee who is scheduled to work a shift of 7.5 hours or more, is entitled to a meal break of 20 minutes or more, before the 5th hour of work. The meal break may be unpaid, if the employee is relieved of all duty.
    If the employees are away from home overnight, the employer may be responsible for reimbursing them for meals purchased while traveling.
    Read more about the Illinois break law at: http://www.state.il.us/agency/idol/faq/qaodrisa.htm
    HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  29. Debra McFarland Says:

    Thank you for the clarification, and the avenues for research.

  30. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Debra!
    You’re more than welcome. I will add that even for overnight travel, most companies set a per diem or limit on the amount that the employees can spend for food, per day. If the per diem is $35 for meals, and the employee spends more than that, the employee must pay the difference. Meals while traveling may also be addressed under the federal FLSA, or Fair Labor Standards Act. HTH, and thanks for reading!~ Caitlin

  31. Debra McFarland Says:

    Caitlin, the saga continues (820 ILCS 115/9) (from Ch. 48, Par. 39m-9) Sec. 9. Except as hereinafter provided deductions by employers from wages or final compensation are prohibited unless….. I received this from the sister company as much as I try to explain that we are now talking apples and oranges they disagree please help to explain in laymen’s terms that the article they are quoting means that 1. deductions cannot be made that will bring an employee’s wages below minimum wage, that this article is a guideline for how an employer can or must make deductions such as income tax, court ordered (child support, Liens) and so on.

  32. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Debra!
    You’re right of course. The Illinois statute cited prohibits employers from making deductions from wages for cash register shortages, breakage and the like. It limits deductions to those required by law, such as garnishered wages, child support payments, Social Security, state and federal income tax, etc. A deduction occurs when an employee is paid for all the hours worked, and then a dollar amount is deducted from those wages.

    Example: Todd works 10 hours and is paid $10 per hour, earning $100. By law, the employer must deduct $50 from Todd’s wages for a child support payment. This is a $50 deduction.

    But an unpaid meal break is not a deduction, because the wages were never earned. Under the Illinois minimum wage law, employees are entitled to payment for all the time worked. An employee who is relieved of all duties during a meal break of 20 minutes or more need not be paid for it, because he is not working.

    Suppose Todd works 3 hours and then clocks out for an hour. Todd returns from break, clocks back in and works for 2 more hours. Todd has worked 5 hours at $10 per hour, for total earnings of $50. Even though Todd only earned $50, there is no deduction here. Todd is simply (and correctly) paid for all the time that he worked, and not paid for the time when he did not work.

    Maybe this will help them understand: When an employee goes home for the night, he is not paid for that time, because he is not working. It is not a deduction, it is simply time that is unpaid because no work is performed. By the same token, a meal break where the employee is completely relieved of work duties for 20 minutes or more is not a deduction. It is simply time the employee is not being paid for, because he is not working.

    If the employee is not taking his or her break, that’s a different problem. In those circumstances you are in violation of state law, the employee must be paid for the time worked, and can be disciplined or terminated for not following company policy.

    If your sister company still doesn’t understand, the only solution that we can suggest is that you contact the Illinois Department of Labor on the topic. Or, don’t pay the employees for meal breaks, and let them persue it with the IL DOL if they feel they have a case. Because (according to what you have told us, assuming they are genuinely taking a meal break of 20 minutes or more) they don’t.
    For more detailed answers and more research, you can also post questions on this site. HTH, and thanks for reading!~ Caitlin

  33. Debra McFarland Says:

    Thank you so much!!!!!

  34. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Debra!

    You are more than welcome! Please know that we are here to answer your questions, any time. ~ Caitlin

  35. Avril Says:

    I think that if you work 8 or more hours you should be given an unpaid 30 minute lunch the 2 paid 10 minute breaks if you work a 9 or 10 hour shift it can be very hard on your feet and 30 minutes just doesnt cut it

  36. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Avril! Some states do require a paid 10 minute rest break for each 4 hour work segment, but Illinois does not. Good point, though, especially for employees who must be on their feet all the time! You can also post your questions or remarks on our sister site at http://www.laborlawtalk.com. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  37. Pamela Says:

    I am an IL employee and work a 9 hour shift. If it’s written in my employee manual that I must take a 1 hour lunch break (unpaid), and I just so happen to come back to my desk to eat my lunch (lets say 15 minutes early), can they demand that I have to work during that time? If so, am I entitled to be paid for the 15 minutes?

  38. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Pamela!

    Well, this is a bit of a mess. As you know, Illinois law requires the employer to give workers a 30 minute unpaid lunch within 5 hour. It appears that your employer is meeting that requirements.

    Under both the federal and Illinois minimum wage laws, employee must be paid for all time they work. So, yes, when you return from break early, the employer must pay you for that time.

    It sounds like the employer has a policy that you will take a 60 minute unpaid break away from your work station, and you are violating that policy. The employer can discipline you or fire you for violating this policy.

    In some types of work, returning to your work station early can be a real problem. For example, a receptionist who returned to her work station early but refused to acknowlege customers who walked in the door, would be presenting the company in a very poor light. You can also post questions on our sister site at http://www.laborlawcenter.com. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  39. Karl Thomas Says:

    Hi – I just started a job in IL recently and found out that we have an hourly non-exempt employee who has been working 6.5 to 7 hours a day and takes no formal breaks/lunch by her own choice. She has family issues that led to this flex arrangement some time back. Her manager had her sign a letter stating the exact schedule and that she is offered lunch time but voluntarily wouldn’t take a lunch/break. This doesn’t sound right to me….thoughts? Thanks much.

  40. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Karl!
    Under Illinois law, an employee who works a shift of 7.5 hours or more must receive a meal break of 20 minutes or more before the 5th hour of work. Some states permit an employee to voluntarily waive the meal break — Illinois does not. This is covered under the Illinois One Day Rest in Seven Law. The meal break need not be paid.
    Since your coworker works less than 7.5 hours, the voluntarily arrangement that she has with the employer, to skip her meal breaks, is entirely legal. Even if the employee wanted a meal break, the employer would be under no obligation to give her one. It appears that the employee prefers to leave work half an hour early, rather than take a meal break, and that arrangement works well for her and her employer. So there is no cause for concern. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  41. Jim Sears Says:

    Hi, I hope you can help.

    About 6 Months ago our employer required us to work 10 Hours a day. We have to stay at work for 11 Hours and 1 Hour of that is considered “Lunch”. Recently, we were told we had to give up our 1 Hour “lunch” and only be allowed 1/2 Hour for “Lunch”. This employer also does not allow breaks anytime during the day. By what I have read; am I required to get a “Lunch” break of 30 Minutes after 5 Hours of work?

    This employer has changed our “Lunch” schedules also and I now have to work 7 Hours before I can take my 1/2 Hour “lunch” break.

    Is this considered a violation of Illinois Laws pertaining to “Lunch” breaks after 5 Hours work or am I missing something?

    PLEASE ADVISE!

  42. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Jim!
    Yes, this is very likely a violation of the Illinois meal break law, which is a portion of the Illinois One Day Rest in Seven Act. Illinois law requires that employees who are scheduled to work 7.5 hours or more be given a meal break of at least 20 minutes before the fifth hour of work. The law makes an exception for employees working under a union contract only if the contract specifies other break arrangements. It sounds like your employer is in violation. You should probably report the employer to the Illinois Department of Labor at http://www.state.il.us/Agency/idol/. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  43. R Says:

    I work at a private international school as a part-time employee. Everyone at the school has a contract except for me. I was given a copy of my responsibilities written by the principal but never signed anything.

    1. I work 7 hour days and am not given time to eat lunch. Since I don’t work 7 1/2 hours, this is perfectly legal in Illinois?

    2. On the written piece of paper states that on a certain day I will only be paid until 3:00 however, I teach a class that ends at 3:30. Is this legal?

    3. Coincidentally, I was talking to someone who was “applying for the volunteer position” at XXX school. It just so happens that this volunteer position is my job that I am being paid for now. In other words they are taking away my job and offering it as a volunteer position. I was not informed of this and just happened to come across this information. Is this legal?

    Thank you for any help!!

  44. Caitlin Says:

    Hi R! To answer your questions in order:
    1) Yes, this is legal because the Illinois break law applies only when the employee works 7.5 hours or more
    2) Emloyees must be paid for each hour (or portion of an hour) worked under both federal and Illinois law.
    3)Yes, the employer can eliminate your positin and hire a volunteer to fill it. The employer is not required to notify you in advance that they are considering this tactic, so it is legal. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  45. ANA FERNANDEZ Says:

    Hi Caitlin,
    I hope you can answer my question.
    I work for a dental office where we get super busy and work 10 hour shifts. My boss only gives us a 20 minute paid break. Is that ok for him to do that in Illinois. I feel like we should receive a 30 minute unpaid break and two 15 min breaks. Whats your opinion?

  46. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Ana! The best practice in HR would be to giveworkers a 30-minute unpaid meal break and two paid breaks of 10 to 15 mintues. However, there is no law that requires Illinois employers to do so.
    Under Illinois law, employees on a shift of 7.5 hour or longer are entitled to an unpaid meal break of 20 minutes or more. Your employer is complying with that law. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  47. Debra McFarland Says:

    Caitlin how are you? I wrote once before and the information that you provided me really helped. Now I need to ask if you have or can suggest someone that has a similar site referencing Indiana, Ohio, or California. I have three sister companies located in these states and similar questions.

  48. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Debra! I’m doing great, and I have good news for you. Our team of HR pros is delighted to answer questions for any of the 50 U.S. states, and the District of Columbia. Just click the “Ask a question” link at the bottom of the page, or the green “Ask a question” box at the top of the page. Be sure to mention the state you are asking about, because employment laws vary a great deal from one state to another, as you have learned! HTH, and thanks for reading the blog!

  49. Tony Says:

    I work 12-13 hour shifts. We only get one 30 minute unpaid lunch. What am I SUPPOSED to be getting? At my previous job, when I worked an 8-10 shift, I had 2 15min breaks and one 30min unpaid lunch.

    Something doesnt seem right here

  50. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Tony! Sorry, but the previous employer was more generous than the law requires. Illinois law requires that each employee working 7.5 hours or more have an unpaid meal break of 20 minutes or more. The law does not require a second meal break, even if the shift is 16 hours or more. There are nine states that also require shorter rest breaks. Illinois is not one of them. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  51. ljay Says:

    does an illinois employer have to provide a clean, safe break area with table and chairs?

  52. Caitlin Says:

    Hi ijay! No. There is no law that an Illinois employer must provide a break area for workers. They can be reqired to take unpaid breaks at the work station, as long as they are not working.
    When you say “safe” if you mean free of hazards like live wires and traffic, then yes, the work area must be safe. But if you mean pleasant, the answer is not. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Caitlin

  53. Gena Says:

    I read this entire Illinois Lunch and Rest Breaks log and was wondering how can we go about changing the lunch and rest breaks law in Illinois. I agree with the people who posted that the law is unfavorably tilted towards the private industry. Who do I start with, my alderman? my senator? I would like to read the actual Illinois act and present a modification. Has a modification been presented before to the Illinois government? Thank you for your reponse.
    Gena

  54. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Gena! You would contact your rep in the Illinois General Assembly — this is a state law. The meal break law for general industry is part of the Illinois One Day Rest In Seven Act. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  55. Maggie Says:

    Hi!

    I am currently pregnant and I try to make up the hours I spent visiting my doctor so I can get my 40 hours a week. The way I try to do that most of the time is by skipping on lunch breaks and eating at my desk while I work. Now I have had no problems doing this until now when the payroll person tells me I have to take 20 minutes break everyday because it is required by the Illinois labor law. I am trying to figure it out if this is true or not as it will make it harder for me to put the hours I miss by going to the doctor. If someone could tell me if i am required to take this time i would greatly appreciate it. My residence as well as my job are both in Cook County Illinois and I am an Accounts Payable Admin. Thank you in advance!

  56. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Maggie! Yes, the Illinois One Day Rest in Seven act includes a provision that every Illinois employee must take a meal break of 20 minutes or more on a shift of 7.5 hours or more. Some states allow employees to skip meal breaks, as long as they sign a written waiver. Illinois does not, so your payroll department is right. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  57. Larry Says:

    The one day of rest law seems to be very specific as the definition of week. I work in retail, therefore we are open 7days a week. I started my work week on Tuesday, my next scheduled day off is Thursday of the following week. Nine continuous days of work. Is my boss skritting the law?

  58. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Larry! No. The law requires that an employee have one day off every calendar week. The calendar week begins on Sunday and ends on Saturday. The employee can have Sunday off this week and Saturday off next week, working 12 straight days in between. This is completely legal in Illinois. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  59. Mickey Says:

    I work in a school district that has 3 elementary, 1 middle and 1 high school. Is it right for one school to make their teachers aides take an unpaid 45 minute lunch when the other schools under the same contract only take a 30 minute unpaid lunch. I also just found out that 2 employees at the same school only take a 30 minute unpaid lunch but work the same amount of hours per day. We are all in the same district under the same contract I would think that it would be the same policy. Thank you for all your help

  60. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Mickey! Your assumption would be wrong. The employer can have one set of rules for some employees, and different rules for other employees. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  61. Kelsey Says:

    Hi, I work at a store in Illinois of a national retail chain. I am a manager but am not salaried and will sometimes work 8 or 9 hour days by myself. Obviously,since I am alone I do not get any kind of break. We are told we can eat while we are working but there is no place to sit and if a customer comes in we have to stop eating to take care of them. The only solution that has been offered by my boss is to clock out for a 15 minute paid break to eat but still since I am alone I have to take care of customers. From what I have read it seems that the company is violating the Illinois break policy? Am I correct? If so, what can I do? Thank you for your help.

  62. Chris Says:

    We currently have a separate lunchroom for our employees with vending machines. Due to a lack of space we are considering moving it out into the production area where there are mail inserting machines running constantly. Are there any requirements as to whether lunchrooms have to be enclosed or away from production areas. We are in Illinois. Thanks.

  63. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Kelsey! This is a gray area because you are a manager working alone. Contact the Illinois Department of Labor for more guidance. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  64. Anne Says:

    I have read all of the questions and answers here. Please address this one. I live in IL. This questions pertains to a small retail store. One employee only is scheduled to work for the day. The employee is to take a 30 minute lunch break, but needs to be available to wait on customers should one come in during that time. They can then finish the 30 minutes later. Is this allowed? Or does a 2nd person have to be scheduled just so the person can take a guaranteed uninterrupted meal break? If a 2nd person is scheduled, can we require the first to stay on permises and be available in case of emergencies?
    Thank you.

  65. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Anne! An Illinois employer can always require that employees remain on the premises during unpaid meal breaks.

    Illinois makes no exception to the meal break law when only one employee is scheduled. Theoretically, if business is slow enough to schedule only one person, that person should be able to find an uninterrupted 20 minutes (the legal minimum) for a meal break. However, if the employee is interrupted to wait on a customer, he or she must be paid for the entire break under the federal FLSA. Theoretically, the employee would then have to begin the break over again, after the customer leaves. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  66. Chris Says:

    Hi Caitlyn,

    I left a message here on March 4th regarding lunchroom location and have yet to get a reply. Please read March 4th. Thanks.

  67. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Chris! This is industry-specific. Illinois law does not require that you provide a lunchroom at all. The issue of whether it is okay to have the lunchroom in the production area will depend upon a) whether this is a safety hazard while people are working the production line and b) whether this is an unsanitary setting for meals. If you were using toxic chemicals, then you could not put the lunch area in the same room. Your best bet is to contact OSHA and use their free consulting service to determine if this relocation of the lunchroom is legal. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin
    P.S. For a quicker reply, post a question rather than a comment.

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  70. mark Says:

    is there a set amount by Illinois labor law for food and gas allowance for stay over in illinois

  71. Caitlin Says:

    Hi mark! No, Illinois does not specify how much an employer must pay an employee for housing and gas when the employee stays overnight. Very few if any states do. Each employer can determine their own budget. It would not be practical to set such a limit in Illinois, because Chicago is much more expensive than the southern portions of the state.HTH and thanbks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  72. Mona Says:

    My Illinois employer has a company policy requiring employees to take a 30 minute unpaid lunch break. If an employee only takes 25 minutes of the break and returns to work early, the employer would still be in compliance with Federal and IL break laws, right? Can the employer then deduct the full 30 minutes for the lunch break?
    Thanks.

  73. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Mona! Yes, if you took only a 25 minute meal break, the employer would be in compliance with both Illinois and federal law. However, they could discipline or terminate you for not following the company meal break policy.
    Illinois and federal minimum wage laws require that an employee be paid for all time worked. So, if you take a 25 minute break, the employer cannot deduct 30 minutes from your pay. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  74. Anna Says:

    In the situation listed above, would the 25 minute lunch be paid, or unpaid? Or is it at the discretion of the employer? What are the rules on this?…Thanks!

  75. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Anna! In Illinois, a 25-minute lunch break can be unpaid even if the employee is required to remain on the premises, as long as the employee is relieved of work duties during the break. If the employee was required to eat at the work station, or remain on duty, then the meal break must be paid. Under federal law, any meal break shorter than 20 minutes must be paid.
    In the example above, if the employee takes a 25-minute meal break, it can be unpaid. However, the employer cannot deduct a 30-minute meal break when the employee only takes 25 minutes. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  76. curious Says:

    I work 8 hrs a day, I was hired with a hour paid lunch. Now the Board members want to remove my hour paid lunch and give me a unpaid 30 mins and a paid 15 min break and make me work 8.5 hrs a day.
    Can they do this eventhough I was hired with a paid hour lunch and it is written on my hiring paperwork?

  77. Caitlin Says:

    Hi curious! Yes, the board can do this. The hours of work in the offer letter are a statement of the company policy at the time you are hired. However, the employer can change that policy unilaterally at any time. If you are an exempt salaried employee, you are not even entitled to overtime when working more than 40 hours per week.The measures the board is taking are entirely legal in Illinois. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  78. Tina S. Says:

    I have a question about my company.
    1. As an employer, are we allowed to automatically deduct a 30 minute lunch break for our employees who are not working on premise if we clearly state that they should be taking a 30 minute lunch break and we are assuming they are? Examples may be drivers or driver helpers.
    2. They can eat in their truck while riding. But would this be considered not relieved from all work duties?
    3. Another question, what about automatically decucting 30 minutes from employees who are on premise? If they are not clocking out, can we say that we are assuming they are taking their 30 minute lunch break since it is required?
    4. Does an automatic deduction like that must be signed off by the employee?
    5. Also, can we put in our maunal that a 30 minute lunch period is offered, or would the word required be better?
    6. What about employees that are not officially scheduled for 7.5 hours, and end up working more than that due to an unexpected circumstance?
    7. When should we start the deduction on our time clock, at 8 hours? meaning at 8 hours it will deduct 30 minutes to total 7.5 hours of work. Or should we set it at anything after 7.5 hours?

    Sorry for all the questions, just trying to clarify some things.

  79. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Tina S! We have answers to all your questions. We have numbered them for easy reference.

    Just to be clear, both the federal FLSA and Illinois minimum wage law require that an employee be paid for all time worked. Both laws require the EMPLOYER to keep ACCURATE payroll records of hours worked by employees, and breaks. The Illinois Wage Payment Act also requires that virtually every employee take a meal break of 20 minutes or more when working a shift of 7.5 hours or more. IF (and only if) the employee is relieved of all duties, the meal break can be unpaid.

    To address your specific questions:

    1. No. You cannot automatically deduct a meal break if the employee does not take it. In a case a few years ago, Walmart ended up paying employees more than $6 million in one state, for automatically deducting meal breaks from the employees time when they were not receiving the breaks.

    You cannot assume that a driver is taking a meal break. The best practice would be to provide them with a time sheet and require that they write down the time of their meal break each day. You can discipline or terminate an employee who does not take a meal break, but you have to pay him for that time.

    There is no provision under state or federal law for the employer to “assume” what hours employees are working. It is your responsibility as an employer to document it accurately. This means tracking not just the number of hours, but the actual times the employee began and stopped working.

    2. An employee who eats in his truck while driving is working, and must be paid for that time. “Relieved from all duties” means just that — the employee cannot even be required to answer the phone if it rings, or help a customer if asked.

    3. No, you cannot automatically deduct breaks from the employees time because you “assume” they are taking them. It is your legal obligation as an employer to document the exact time of these breaks. Our suggestion is that you have employees punch out for meal breaks.

    4. You should not be making automatic deductions, but yes, employees should be signing off on the accuracy of payroll records every week, and every time they are paid.

    5. The best practice would be to put that meal breaks are “required” in your employee handbook, and enforce that policy. Some states allow an employee to waive a meal break, as long as it is done in writing. Illinois does not. Therefore, when an employee skips a meal break, the EMPLOYER has broken the law. If you then automatically deduct a break, thereby not paying employees for all time worked, you have broken the law twice.

    6. The employees schedule is irrelevant. If he or she works 7.5 hours or more, the employee is entitled to a meal break. Some companies deal with this by requiring all employees, or all employees scheduled to work 6 hours or more, to take a meal break. This is completely legal.

    7. The best advice we can give you is to disable the automatic meal break feature on your time clock. (Payroll software and automated time clocks permit an employer to do many things that are illegal.) You should never be automatically deducting breaks. You should always require employees to punch out and in for meal breaks, or (when that is not possible) keep a written record.

    If employees are genuinely taking the meal breaks, there is no reason not to document that. In most cases, when meal breaks are automatically deducted, it is because the employees are not taking meal breaks.

    We only suggest that an employer use the automatic deduction for meal breaks in circumstances that involve a lot of employees, where it would be physically impossible for an employee to work during the meal break. For example, a factory assembly line might be shut down for half an hour in the middle of the day. It would not be possible for any of the 400 line employees to work at that time, even if they wanted to. (And, it would be cumbersome for them all to punch out and back in.) That would be a legitimate use of the automatic deduction for a meal break.

    You may think that this is a minor issue, but we urge you to take it seriously. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor collected more back wages, fines and penalties from employers than in any other year in history. They are on track to exceed it this year. The most common complaint? Employees not being paid for all the time they worked, including automatic deductions for meal breaks. The Illinois Department of Labor or IDOL was recently given more power to go after employers who break the law. We urge you to change your policies, to conform with federal and state law. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  80. Tina S. Says:

    Thank you Caitlin!! That was very helpful!!

  81. Caitlin Says:

    Hi again Tina S! You are very welcome! Please know we are always here to answer your HR questions. Cheers!~ Caitlin

  82. Pilar Says:

    Hi! I know of an exempt employee in Illinois who has been working 19-20 in a day and having to work again for an additional 16 hours the next day with a commute time of 1 to 2 hours in a day. This is on a monthly basis for the past 2 years. What is the minimum number of hours for that person to rest in a day? Is it legal to be forced to work 19 hours a day in Illinois? With a commute time of 1-2 hours, that person is left with 3-4 hours of sleep. Safety then becomes an issue.

  83. Pilar Says:

    By the way, the person mentioned above works a normal 40-50 hour per week and those 19 hour day then 16 happens at end of the month only… Thx!

  84. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Pilar! Illinois has no law about the maximum length of the shift for exempt employees. The Illinois One Day Rest in Seven Act requires that the employee be given 24 hours off every payroll week. However, there is no state law that restricts the work hours, other than that. This is entirely legal.
    In some occupations such as interstate truck driver or airline pilot, the federal government restricts the number of hours that an employee can work per week.
    We agree that this is a very difficult schedule. However, the length of the commute is not the employers concern. The best practice in HR is to treat employees equally, regardless of where they live. An employee who lives 2 hours away is held to the same performance standards as an employee who lives next door. The only recommendation we can really make is that this employee look for a different job. Sadly, there are many exempt employees in Illinois who work 70-80 hours per week, every week. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  85. Amy Says:

    I work 3rd shift in an assisted living facility and my employer requires that we remain on premise during our unpaid 30-minute break. Can our employer control what we do during our break, i.e.; take a cat nap? HR has stated that we can, but the director of our facility does not want to allow us that option. What if any are our legal rights to a nap off the clock? Thank you in advance.

  86. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Amy! Yes, the employer can set reasonable limits on the activities an employee may perform during his or her unpaid meal break. For example, the employer can forbid an employee from practicing her stripper-pole routine during her meal break.
    Many employers prohibit workers from taking naps during the work day for two reasons. They want to encourage employees to come to work fully rested and ready to work the entire shift. Also, many employees who are allowed to take naps do not limit them to their meal break. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  87. sandra mcbride Says:

    I work in a hospital. I must carry a pager as I work alone at night. I do not get paid for my lunch, nor can i leave the premises as I must be there to answer the pager at all times Therefore my lunch can and does get interrupted often. Is this legal?

  88. Caitlin Says:

    Hi sandra! If you are interrupted at least once during your meal break each day, then you are entitled to payment for your meal break under federal and state law. If you had to carry a pager but were rarely interrupted, then you would be entitled to payment only on those days when you were interrupted. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  89. Jen Says:

    Hi, my question is about whether the 20-min break period is “required” or not: the wording of the Illinois law (at 820 ILCS 140/3) says the employer “must permit” employees who work 7.5 continuous hours to have the break period. It does not say that the employer is “required” to make sure the employee takes the break. This choice of wording in the law seems intentional, as if the employee must be permitted to take the break, but not that the employer is required to provide a break (regardless of whether the employee wants it or has waived it). Does that wording choice strike you the same way? Thanks for the great blog.

  90. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Jen! Sorry but no. Several states have break laws that allow an employee to waive the meal break, as long as the employee does so in writing. Illinois does not.

    In those states, the law specifically says, “An employee may voluntarily waive the meal break as long as it is done in writing…etc.” Illinois does not specify this.

    In Illinois,even if the employee voluntarily skipped the meal break, the employer would have no way of proving so. It would be a he said/she said situation whether the employee voluntarily skipped the break or the employer forced him/her to work.

    The IDOL regulations say that the break SHALL be given and that it MUST be given before the 5th hour. So their opinion of this is pretty clear.

    An employer in any state can require that employees take a meal break, and discipline or terminate any employee who refuses. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  91. Maggie Says:

    At my workplace in Illinois, part-time employees work from 9-5, with an hour for lunch which is unpaid, so it is a 7-hour day. Full-time employees work 9-5 daily (though not five days a week) but get paid for lunch, and therefore work an 8-hour day. As far as I can see, they get full-time status by being paid for lunch. Is this legal?
    Thanks, great blog.

  92. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Maggie! It is legal to treat full-time and part-time employees differently. And, the company decides how full-time or part-time status is determined. There is no Illinois or federal law that addresses who is full-time and who is part-time. So while this policy may be unfair, it is lawful.

    It sounds like at this workplace, two employees could each work 9-5 on three days per week. One would be full-time and one would be considered part-time. Obviously, that is unfair, especially if the part-time employee is willing and available to work more hours per week.

    Any policy that creates less desirable working conditions for employees in a protected group is de facto discrimination. If most of the female workers, or most Hispanic employees are “part-time,” this would be illegal discrimination.

    If the employer has an HR department, you could discuss this disparity with them tactfully. If the employer is unreasonable, or has no HR department, you may want to file a complaint of illegal discrimination with the EEOC. Filing an official complaint will protect you from illegal retaliation. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  93. Kathy Says:

    I work part time at a retail store, with the economy being as it is the owners have decided now to force employees to take an unpaid 20 minute lunch if you work more than 4 hours. Every where I read it shows you have to work 7.5 hrs to get a lunch. Is it legal for them to tell an employee who works a 4.5 hr shift that they have to clock out for a 20 minute lunch.

  94. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Kathy! Yes, this is entirely legal. Under Illinois law, the 20-minute meal break on a shift of 7.5 hours or more is the MINIMUM standard that the employer MUST follow. However, the employer MAY impose a stricter standard if they like. In your case, they are implementing a policy of giving breaks on a shift of 4 hours or more. This policy is entirely reasonable and even more important,it is legal. The employer can discipline or terminate any employee who does not follow the company policy. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Caitlin

  95. Amy Says:

    I am a paralegal for a public defender in Illinois. He says that legally he must make me take an unpaid 15 min break after 4 hours. He only schedules me 5.5 hours a day. He allows me to opt out of the lunch break, but he says he must deduct 15 mins for this “legally mandatory break after 4 hours”. Can he make me take a break? And can it be unpaid?? Only working 5.5 hours a day, I need all the money I can get! I dont want to take an unpaid break!
    Please help!

  96. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Amy! No, this is not correct. Since you are a paralegal, do some research on the Illinois laws. The Illinois One Day Rest in Seven Act requires that an employee be given a meal break of 20 minutes or more when working a shift of 7.5 hours or more. Rest breaks are required only for maids in Chicago hotels, under Illinois law.

    The federal FLSA requires that employees be paid for any break that is shorter than 20 minutes. So the employer can require that you take a 15-minute break, but you must be paid for it.

    In addition, both federal and Illinois minimum wage laws require that an employee be paid for all the time she works. It is unlawful for the employer to automatically deduct time for a break you did not take.

    Your boss could require you to take an unpaid meal break of 20 minutes or more each day as a matter of company policy, but there is no law that requires him to do so.

    After you do the research, you should tactfully present your findings to your boss at a time when the two of you are not in conflict. You should also be actively looking for a better job, because we dont think much of an attorney who cannot research this for himself. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Caitlin

  97. Ranike Says:

    I work in retail and my manager said its IL state law that i take 30 min (unpaid) break when i work 5 hrs. However the companys hr manual states that i can decline the break and i am not required to take one unless i work at least 7. I have read some of the q&a above and i just need some understanding of this whole break no break thing

  98. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Ranike! The problem is that very often a company will have one handbook that covers many states — but different states have different break laws. In Illinois, the employer is required to give you a meal break of 20 minutes or more, when you work a shift of 7.5 hours or more. Some state break laws permit the employee to decline the meal break, as long as it is done in writing. The Illinois law does not.

    However, the state break law is the minimum that the employer must provide — any employer can require that an employee take a 60-minute meal break, or take a break on a shorter shift. Any employee who refuses to follow this company policy can be disciplined or terminated.

    Many companies would allow a manager to impose these working conditions. You do not have a lot to gain by defying the manager on this topic. Even if you complain to the corporate HR department, and they back you up, your manager will be an enemy for life. Your best alternative is to take the breaks. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Caitlin

  99. bill priestley Says:

    Our employer just notified us that we must take our lunch within the first 5 hours of our shift. Most employees here work a traditional 8 hour day, but i work 10 hour shifts (not including lunch); do i still need to take my lunch within the first 5 hours of can it be extended since i have a longer shift? Thank you!!

  100. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Bill! Unfortunately, no. The Illinois One Day Rest in Seven Act requires that employers give workers a meal break of 20 minutes or more on a shift of 7.5 hours or more, and that the meal break begin within the first 5 hours of work. An employer who delays the meal break — even at the employees request — is in violation of the law. HTH,and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  101. Pete Says:

    Very helpful discussion, thanks. I am looking for advice on making a change to current policy. If an employer has been auto-deducting, and then changes to a strict policy of requiring breaks where the employee is relieved of duty, is there any way to limit the years of exposure where the policy was administered incorrectly? The concern is employees see the change, and then look for years of back pay for when the program was administered incorrectly. Thanks for the advice.

  102. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Pete! You have a valid concern. The solution is to change the current policy without admitting that anything was wrong with the old policy. This can be done by implementing the new policy in conjunction with other changes, or by finding a “reason” for the new policy. If your old system automatically deducted a 20-minute break, you can implement a new policy that employees must take a 30 minute break and clock out for it.
    Or you can identify another advantage of this policy, like better customer service, and cite that as the reason for the change.
    Even without such a “reason”, you do not create greater exposure to liability for back pay, by fixing the problem. If you have been breaking the law in the past by not paying employees for all time worked, nothing you do now will change that. But you can limit future liability. Be aware that even if the employees go to the IDOL or US DOL, you would be liable for back wages for a maximum of 3 years. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  103. joe Says:

    When a restaurant or C-Store in Illinois has only 1 person on duty do they have a special break policy?

  104. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Joe! Under the Illinois One Day Rest in Seven Act, an employee who works alone need not be given a meal break. The employee should be allowed to snack or consume a meal while on duty. HTH, and thanks for reding the blogs!~ Caitlin

  105. Brian R Flaherty Says:

    Hello Folks, My employer is stating that all employees must take lunch between the 3rd and 5th hour and that this is Illinois law. I am not sure I agree with that and would like a clarification. I have been written up for going over and under that rule.

    Most of us hold a Class A CDL if that helps.

    My friends at [company name deleted] do not take a lunch break or at least not the package drivers.

    Thank you and i look forward to hearing back.

  106. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Brian! There are really two separate issues here — Illinois employment law and company policy.
    The Illinois One Day Rest in Seven Act requires that every employee who works a shift of 7.5 hours or more, be given a meal break of 20 minutes or more. This meal break must begin before the 5th hour of the shift. See the link below, section 3. There is no requirement that the break cannot begin before the 3rd hour, but that seems like a reasonable policy to us.
    Whether or not you have a CDL license is irrelevant. Some states exempt drivers from mandatory break laws — Illinois does not. Some state laws specifically permit an employee to waive his or her meal break, as long as it is done in writing — Illinois does not.
    Your friends who work for another company may belong to a union, such as the Teamsters, and be working under a collective bargaining agreement (aka a union contract) that makes other arrangements. Or, the other company may be breaking the law. Either way, that does not affect your situation.
    In addition, even if Illinois law did not require a meal break, the employer can require that workers take an unpaid meal break of up to 60 minutes, at any time the employer determines. Any employee who violates this policy can be disciplined or terminated. This is true in any state. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

    Read more about this at: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=2407&ChapAct=820 ILCS 140/&ChapterID=68&ChapterName=EMPLOYMENT&ActName=One+Day+Rest+In+Seven+Act%2E

  107. JAB Says:

    Is an employer required to provide a breakroom?

  108. Caitlin Says:

    Hi JAB! No, an Illinois employer is not required to provide a break room for employees. Even if workers are not allowed to leave the premises on their meal break, the employer is under no obligation to provide a separate break room. A few states such as California do require break rooms under some circumstances, but Illinois does not. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Caitlin

  109. Mary Says:

    I think the law favors business owners. People today work 2 maybe even 3 jobs just to survive and the fact that breaks are left to the employers discretion is a shame because most are more concerned with production. I am writing a letter to our senator and suggest to anyone who feels the same to do so as well.

  110. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Mary! Although we normally take a very pro-employer stance on this blog, we have to agree with you on this issue.
    There are 19 U.S. states where employers are required to give meal breaks to virtually all employees. In 6 of them, rest breaks are also required. Note that this original article addressed breaks in Illinois. Under the current law, Illinois employers are required to give a meal break of 20 minutes or more to almost all employees. However, rest breaks are not required.
    Here is the irony. Studies show that when employees are given a 30-minute unpaid meal break, plus two 10 or 15 minute paid rest breaks, they are actually more productive than employees who work straight through. So if the employer is concerned about productivity, they are actually shooting themselves in the foot by not giving breaks to workers.
    You are correct that contacting your elected representatives is probably the only way this issue will be resolved. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  111. victoria Says:

    I have a multiple part question, as an employer I am trying to find out if my policy at the office is legal or not. I have new employees and thus the confusion. 1. All new employees are hourly and I require no one to punch out for lunch 2. nor do I force them to take unpaid breaks. 3. I have implemented a policy with new hires (as there has been some turnover and inconsistency with employees) that benefits such as vacation, holiday and sick days begin after one year of employment. 4. Am I within my rights to make that a policy or am I required by law to pay holidays on new employees? Any help would be appreciated, i am in the process of getting an employee manual in place which will be reviewed by an attorney but I am getting pressured about certain things from an employee. Want to make sure I am in compliance with the law.
    thanks!
    victoria

  112. Caitlin Says:

    Hi victoria! We have all the answers for you! We numbered your questions for easy reference. We will assume that you have at least 15 employees and are covered by the federal minimum wage laws, as well as the Illinois minimum wage.
    1. This may be legal, but it is unwise. Just so you know, under Illinois law, you must give a meal break to any employee who works a shift of 7.5 hours or more, under the Illinois One Day Rest in Seven Act. A 20-minute meal break is allowed, a 30-minute meal break is even better. The problem with not having employees punch out for the meal break is: if the Illinois Department of Labor comes calling, how will you prove that these employees took a meal break each day? If they skipped the meal break, how will you prove that it was the employees choice and you did not force them to work through lunch?
    Too often when an employer says “I do not force employees to clock out for a lunch break” what they really mean is “I expect employees to work through their lunch break.”
    If your employees are truly taking a lunch break every day, and are free from work duties during that time, it would be wise to document that by having them punch out. You could still pay them for the lunch break, although it is not clear why you would want to. (Figure out how much money you would save in a year by giving unpaid meal breaks and then decide. But paid or unpaid, the best practice is to document meal breaks by having the employees clock out for them.)
    2. Just so you know, the federal FLSA requires you to pay workers for any rest breaks that are shorter than 20 minutes. It does not require you to give employees short rest breaks, but it does require that they be paid for them.
    3. You should put this policy in writing, but it is lawful for an employer to establish a policy that vacation, holiday pay and sick leave begin only after one year of employment. However, you must enforce this policy uniformly. You cannot give benefits to an employee who has been with you for only 6 months, and deny them to another employee who has been with you less than a year.
    There is also an issue of de facto discrimination. This occurs when you provide different working conditions for employees of a different race, color, sex, age (over 40), sexual orientation, religion, national ancestry or who have a disability. For example, suppose you hired two new employees who were Hispanic. These two employees did not have benefits, but all your non-Hispanic workers (hired earlier) did have benefits. This would create negative working conditions for the Hispanic employees, and would be a type of illegal discrimination — even if it was not your intention to target Hispanic employees.
    However, as long as this policy applies uniformly to workers of different groups, it is lawful. Ideally, you would send out a memo detailing this policy and inform employees during orientation of the policy.
    4. There is no Illinois law that you must offer holiday pay to workers. A few states like Rhode Island and Massachusetts have such a law, but Illinois does not. As an employer, if you offer paid holidays, you determine the policies surrounding it. You can choose to offer holiday pay only after the employee has been with you a year — as long as this policy is fairly and consistently enforced. However, if you are currently paying holiday pay to some employees who have been with you less than a year, but not others, that is a major problem.
    Also, you did not ask, but we will say this: all of these policies are unrelated. In other words, being generous to your employees in one area would not excuse breaking the law in another area, like not giving meal breaks. This is a complex issue, so feel free to post additional questions. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  113. Jason Says:

    Hi, I work as a supervisor in Illinois and I give permission to my boss to punch me out for a lunch on the days I work eight hours even though I work through it. Is this ok? And another question, if I work for seven hours would I have to take a lunch break? My manager put that I took a lunch on these even though I did not nor did I give her permission. Is there anything I can do?

  114. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Jason! Both federal and Illinois law require that an houryly employee be paid for all the time he works. Even if you give your manager permission to punch you out for a lunch you did not take, it is not lawful because you are working 30 minutes but not being paid for those 30 minutes.
    However, most employers view asking someone else to clock you in or out as falsifying payroll documents. It is quite possible that if you bring up this issue, both you and your manager will be fired for this very serious offense. Almost every U.S. employer has a policy that you cannot ask or allow anyone else to punch you in or out. Unfortunately, once you start violating company policies, you put yourself in a bad position when others are violating policies or the law.
    Illinois law requires the employer to give you a meal break if you work a shift of 7.5 hours or more. The law does not require that employers give workers a break if the employee works only 7 hours, however, the employer can establish this requirement and discipline or fire any employee who does not follow this policy.
    So technically you are entitled to payment for all the times you did not take a meal break. However, if you try to claim it, there is an excellent chance you will lose your job. Our recommendation is that from now on, you clock yourself in and out, and take the required meal breaks. In a few months, if the manager is still not paying you for all the time you have worked, you can file a complaint if you think its worth it. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  115. Mark Says:

    Hi,
    If an employee has two 15 minute paid breaks, is it okay to put them together and simulate a rest period of more than 20 minutes as required? For example, I work 8:00am – 4:30 PM with two paid 15 minute breaks and an unpaid lunch of 30 minutes. Can I work a schedule of 8:00AM to 4:00PM (8hrs) with two combined paid breaks of 30 minutes (paid) and still meet the requirements of the Il rest period?
    Thanks!

  116. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Mark! As long as you take at least one meal break of 20 minutes or more, you are in compliance with Illinois law. The Illinois One Day Rest in Seven Act requires the employer to give a meal break to any employee who works a shift of 7.5 hours or more. However, that law does not require the employer to give any rest breaks at all. It sounds like your employer is very generously providing you with two 15 minute paid rest breaks, in addition to a 30-minute unpaid meal break.
    In Illinois or most other states, an employer has the right to establish a break policy and discipline or terminate any employee who violates that policy. You do not have an inalienable right to modify the break schedule to suit yourself.
    If you modify the break schedule as you suggest, there is no law that the employer must pay you for the second 30-minute meal break. Under the federal FLSA, employees must be paid for rest breaks that are shorter than 20 minutes. However, if you combine your two paid 15-minute breaks into one break, the employer is not required to pay you for that time.
    Nor is there any law that would require the employer to allow you to leave work half an hour early. Work hours and length of breaks are unrelated. If the employer did require you to leave at 4 pm, they would not be obligated to pay you until 4:30 pm (and in fact it could become a liability issue if they did so.)
    Suppose employee Paz is scheduled to work from 8 am to 4:30 pm. Paz combines his breaks into two 30-minute meal breaks, and leaves work at 4 pm. Paz is entitled to payment only for 7 hours that day. In addition, the employer can write him up or even fire him, for not following the established break policy and for leaving work early.
    If you have a disability like diabetes, that requires you to eat twice during this period, you may be entitled to a second unpaid meal break as a reasonable accommodation. However, again, the employer is not required to allow you to leave work early, even if you take the extra break.
    This answer would be only slightly different if you were a hotel room attendant in Cook County. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  117. Mark Says:

    Hi Caitlin,
    Thanks for the fast response and want to be clear. The employer is offering this schedule as an option and will allow me to work 8:00AM – 4:00PM with my 30 minute paid break within 5 hrs of the start of my shift. I will have no other break periods. Does this meet the Il State requirement? I should add that I also want this schedule and am not a hotel room attendant in Cook County. HTH.

    This is an excellent blog. Thank you!!

  118. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Mark! Yes, this work schedule is lawful in Illinois for an employee in general industry. HTH, and thanks for reading!~ Caitlin

  119. WILLIAM Says:

    Just a Quick Question. I have been working for a company for the last 20 years
    We start work at 7:00am and get off at 4:00pm Monday thru Friday.
    We are given: One (UNPAID) 10 min break at 9am, One (UNPAID) 40 min lunch at 12:00pm and Another (UNPAID) 10min break at 2:30pm
    Is this under Policy? or can I take Legal actions?

  120. Caitlin Says:

    Hi William! Your employer meets the legal break requirements for Illinois employers, as long as you are not a hotel maid in Cook County.
    However, if the company is covered by the FLSA, the federal minimum wage law, you are entitled to payment for the two 10-minute breaks. The FLSA requires that employees be paid for breaks shorter than 20 minutes. That law applies to any company with annual revenue of $500,000 or more. At smaller companies, employees who engage in interstate commerce are covered by the FLSA. Interstate commerce would include many activities like using the Internet, opening mail, accepting credit cards for payment and producing products sold out of state. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  121. Marilyn Says:

    My daughter works for a pizza business in Naperville…she has been employed there for almost 2 yrs. There are days(evenings) she works 10+hrs with no meal or rest times…there are no labor law posters in sight…is this legal for this kind of establishment?

  122. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Marilyn! No, if your daughter is an hourly employee, this is not lawful. The Illinois One Day Rest in Seven Act requires that an employee who works a shift of 7.5 hours or more be given a meal break of at least 20 minutes. There are some exceptions when an employee is working alone, but they do not apply to your daughter. She should contact the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) at the link below. Tell your daughter “hi” for us. One of our advisers will be in Naperville next week attending a conference. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Caitlin

    Read more about this at:http://www.state.il.us/agency/idol/laws/law140.htm

  123. Chad Says:

    So by Illinois state law if you work seven hours five days a week you are entitled to no breaks at all right?

  124. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Chad! That is essentially correct, with two exceptions. Minors under the age of 16 must be given a 30-minute meal break after 5 hours of work, regardless of the length of the shift. And, hotel maids in Cook County are entitled to more meal and rest breaks than other employees.
    However, if you are not a hotel maid in Cook County, and you are working a shift of 7 hours, there is no state or federal law that requires the employer to give you a meal break. The employer can implement a company policy that paid or unpaid meal breaks are required — but they are not obligated to do so by law. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  125. Rosie Says:

    Hello,

    I was wondering if the below policy is legal in Illinois and what are some repercussions of such policy:

    When working 8 or more hours you receive 2 paid 15 minute breaks. A lunch of at least 30 minutes, unpaid, must be taken when working 5 or more hours. You may choose to skip one of your paid breaks to compensate for a longer lunch (ex. a 45 minute lunch with one skipped break would equal a deduction of 30 minutes).

  126. Claire Says:

    I work in a retail store and we have a “break room” located in the middle of the store. Sometimes customers ask us questions about merchandise while we are taking our lunch breaks. Is this considered not being relieved of our duties and therefore we should be paid for such a break? Also, can we get in trouble for telling the customer that we are on break? (I was told we could be terminated for telling a customer we are on break.) Thank you so much!

  127. Dean Says:

    Great information here, thanks! I have a couple of employees that work 8 hour shifts. They have taken meal breaks but there is no concrete documentation like punching in/out. Now, they are paid for the full 8 hours. Would this be considered interrupted meals? What would happen if they said they do not get breaks?

  128. Dean Says:

    To be clear, I meant what would happen if they said they do no get any meal time (lie about it)? This is for IL.

  129. Lynn Says:

    My boss does not provide a table and has recently taken away the chairs in our breakroom. I was just wondering if that is legal?

  130. hrlady Says:

    There is no requirement for an employer to provide a lunchroom or eating area to employee. However, if an employer provides a lunchroom certain standards apply and it mainly pertains to sanitary conditions such as water but not to furniture.

  131. marcus Says:

    My employer has a total of 10 employees and all of them get a paid lunch exept me and one other coworker. Is he allowed to do this? we get no lunch or breaks and we work 8 to sometimes 10 hr shifts. If this is not legal is there some kind of legal action we can take?

  132. hrlady Says:

    Hi Marcus,

    Federal law does not require an employer to provide lunch or breaks. However, when an employer does provide them they must pay for breaks under 20 minutes. A lunch period of 30 minutes does not need to be paid. Some states mandate break and/or lunch periods.

    I am not sure why or if your employer is singling you and a co-worker out. If your employer allows lunch and break periods, then all employees should receive them. Some possibilities are, you may be on a different work schedule. It is also possible that the other workers are hourly or non-exempt, you and the other worker are exempt.

    The first step I would take is to talk to your employer. It may be an over-site or one of the reasons listed above.

  133. Jill Says:

    Hi!
    Could you clarify what constitutes a 20 minute, paid break? Must the employee be completely relieved of duties for the full 20 minutes?

  134. hrlady Says:

    Hi Jill,

    Federal law does not require lunch or coffer breaks. However, when employers do offer short breaks (usually lasting about 5 to 20 minutes), that time must be paid. Typically, a break means that the employee must be relieved of duties for the 5 to 20 minute period, if the employer provides a break.

    Thank you for reading the Humanresourceblog.com

  135. Amy Says:

    I have been working for the same dental office for almost 20 years. I was recently given a hand out that stated “lunches are a luxury”. I was also told I should punch out when I eat. I work 9-10 hours a day and If I get less than 30 minutes I do not and refuse to clock out. Somedays I am not even able to use the rest room. I also have to answer the phone and help patients if I do get a lunch and am clocked out and have stated if I am still “working” I will not clock out and be paid for my time. I also get calls to my home on my days off and I do write my time in for taking these calls on my time off. The employer is getting ready to install a time clock on the computer that automatically clocks one out for lunches. I am fine with whatever practice they choose to do, but if it is deducting 30 minutes of time from my pay, I will not be working and I will be taking that 30 minutes. However, how do I handle the employer when he gets hostile about all of this and does not quite grasp where I am coming from? Again, I have been with the same employer for almost 20 years and try to work out all issues on a sit down basis.

  136. Sean Miller Says:

    I am allowed a one hour lunch, several days a week I am alone in my office. When a customer comes in I have to take care of them. How should the meal break work? If I have to work through my lunch while I am punched out is this legal?

  137. hrlady Says:

    Hi Sean,

    The U.S. Department of Labor (Wage and Hour Division) states that “Rest periods of a short duration, usually 20 minor less, are common in industry (promote the efficiency of the employee) and are customarily paid for as working time. These short periods must be counted as hours worked. Meal periods (typically 30 minutes or more) generally need not be compensated as work time. 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”.

    In addition, they state that waiting time is hours worked under the Act and it depends upon the particular circumstances. Generally, the facts may show that the employee was engaged to wait (which is work time) or the facts show that the employee was waiting to be engaged (which is not work time). For example, a secretary who reads a book while waiting for dictation has been engaged to wait and therefore is to be compensated.

    Another example cited by the U. S. Department of Labor is when an employee who remains at his/her desk while eating lunch and regularly answers the telephone and refers callers is working. The time must be counted and paid as compensable hours worked because the employee has not been completely relieved from duty.
    You should speak to the Human Resource department regarding your lunch hour.

    Thank you for reading the Humanresourceblog.com.

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