Meal Breaks and Rest Breaks for Illinois Employees

Web Admin - Thursday, November 10, 2016

Des Plaines employment law attorneysIllinois businesses, both large and small, must follow all federal and state employment laws. This includes laws that pertain to meal and rest breaks for employees. Failure to do so can have dire consequences, including the possibility of litigation. Whether you are an employer and are uncertain as to how the law applies to your business, or an employee who is concerned you may not be receiving the proper breaks from your employer, the following information can help.

Federal Laws on Paid and Unpaid Breaks

Believe it or not, federal law does not mandate that employees be given meal or rest breaks. However, federal law does state that employers must pay their employees for the hours they work. This extends to short breaks that last between five and 20 minutes, as well as any “meal breaks” that the employee actively works through, since federal law still considers these breaks a part of the work day. As an example, a receptionist who must eat her lunch at the desk to cover the phones must be paid for that meal break. Another would be if a maintenance worker must eat while driving from one job to another.

State Laws on Paid and Unpaid Breaks

Although federal law does not mandate that an employer provide paid or unpaid breaks to their employees, state law does. In fact, Illinois businesses must provide their employees with one meal break if they work at least seven and a half consecutive hours in the work day. The break must be at least 20 minutes long (which can be unpaid or paid, depending on the employer’s preference), and it must take place no later than five hours after the employee’s shift starts. The only time that an employer is required to pay the employee for the lunch break is, again, if the employee must work through their lunch break instead of taking the time off.

Illinois state law also provides special provisions for hotel room attendants (employees who clean guest rooms). Employers must provide them with a slightly longer meal break (at least 30 minutes). They must also provide them with at least two, 15-minute rest breaks if they work for seven consecutive hours in a day. They cannot be required to work during their rest or meal breaks, and they must be provided with a break area and seating in which to take their breaks.

Violations Can Lead to Litigation

If an employer fails to meet state law meal break or hotel attendant break requirements, the employee can file a suit against the employer. It is important to note that, whether you are an employee or an employer in this situation, legal assistance is highly recommended. The Des Plaines employment law attorneys at Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC can help. Dedicated and experienced, we will protect your interests. Schedule your consultation by calling 847-934-6000 today.

Ken ApicellaAbout the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.


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