Federal and State Meal, Rest and Break Laws

August 4, 2017

By Associate Attorney Bianca Saviano

Federal and State Meal, Rest and Break Laws Federal and state law mandates employers to adhere to certain provisions regarding meals, rests and breaks for their employees. Currently, federal regulation does not require employers to provide meal or break periods for their employees. However, if an employer chooses to allow its employees a rest break (usually five (5) to twenty (20) minutes), federal law states that the employer must pay employees for their time on break. But if an employer allows its employees a meal period (typically lasting at least thirty (30) minutes or more), an employer does not need to pay the employees for their meal period. (29 U.S.C.§ 785.18-19 (2016)).

In contrast to federal law, Illinois statute requires employers to give meal breaks. Unless, specifically exempt by law, Illinois employers must provide meal breaks to employees who work at least seven and a half (7.5) continuous hours or longer pursuant to the One Day Rest in Seven Act. (820 ILCS 140/3). This meal break must be at least twenty (20) minutes long and it must start no later than five (5) hours after the beginning of the shift. In addition, an employer must permit employees to take at least a twenty (20) minute meal period for each continuous seven and a half (7.5) hours an employee works. (IL Admin. Code, Title 56 §220.800). Illinois law does not regulate breaks other than the twenty (20) minute meal period. For Illinois employees under the age of sixteen (16), employers must provide a meal period of at least thirty (30) minutes when the employee is scheduled to work more than five (5) consecutive hours per the Child Labor Law. (820 ILCS 205/4).

Illinois’s One Day Rest in Seven Act further provides that employees must receive a minimum of twenty-four (24) hours of rest in each calendar week. (820 ILCS 140/2). However, exceptions to the rule exist. Specifically, the law allows employers to secure permits from the Illinois Department of Labor (“IDOL”) to work employees a seventh (7th) day of the week, provided that the employees have voluntarily elected to work.

If you have any questions regarding federal or Illinois meal, rest and/or break regulations, call Illinois Advocates today.