What Are the Labor Laws in Illinois Pertaining to Breaks?

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Illinois labor laws work hand-in-hand with federal legislation like the Fair Labor Standards Act, but here's a factoid that may surprise you: Federal law doesn't actually guarantee meal or rest breaks for workers (though it does guarantee that employees are paid for their time if certain types of small breaks are granted).

That's where the Prairie State's own laws come into play. In Illinois, break laws fill in where federal laws lack – these laws require that employers provide break periods to employees under certain common circumstances.

Illinois Break Laws: Meals

If you're an employee who works a shift of at least seven and a half continuous hours, Illinois labor laws demand that you're granted a meal break no shorter than 20 minutes, as stated in the Illinois Joint Committee on Administrative Rules Administrative Code, Title 56, Section 220.800. This break must occur no later than five hours after the beginning of your shift. The law requires breaks for every 7.5 hours worked, so if you work for 15 hours, you're entitled to two 20-minute meal breaks.

One downside for Illinoisan workers: These breaks are unpaid. If you work through your break, however, state law guarantees that you get paid for that time.

Illinois Break Laws: Hotel Workers

According to the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association, the state is home to 144,090 hotel jobs and 1,489 hotel properties, which annually contribute about $25 billion to the Land of Lincoln's gross domestic product. Maybe that explains why Illinois work laws contain some interesting stipulations specifically regarding hotel workers.

If you're a hotel room attendant in Illinois (meaning an employee that cleans guest rooms), your meal break jumps to a required minimum of 30 minutes for a seven-hour shift. But that's not where the differences end – additionally, hotel attendants are entitled to two paid rest breaks, each totaling 15 minutes, per seven-hour shift. By law, employers must provide a break area with free, clean drinking water and seating in a "comfortable environment," and they are not allowed to require attendants to work during through these breaks.

Should an employer break these laws, the Illinois Compiled Statutes demand that they pay the attendant three times his regular hourly rate for each work day during which the breaks weren't provided.

Read More: Illinois Work Laws for 17-Year-Olds

More to Know

If you're interested in taking a deep dive into Illinois break laws, the full legalese can be found in the Illinois Compiled Statutes, 820 ILCS 140, the One Day Rest in Seven Act. This act breaks down required hours and days of rest in every calendar week in addition to detailing meal breaks and special stipulations for hotel employees.

Nearby, 820 ILCS 205/4 (which pertains to child labor laws in the state) makes some particular considerations for young workers in Illinois. Illinoisan employees under the age of 16 must receive a meal break of at least 30 minutes if they're scheduled to work for any more than five consecutive hours.

Similarly, the Illinois Human Rights Act (775 ILCS 5/) offers broader legal protections to potentially vulnerable workers. Article two of the IHRA requires that if an employee is pregnant or affected by medical or common conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth, employers must make reasonable accommodations that enable the employee to perform her basic work functions. Alongside accommodations such as assistance with manual labor or modifying the work space, this may include longer bathroom breaks, water breaks, rest breaks and additional breaks for expressing breast milk or breastfeeding. Likewise, the Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act demands that any employer with over five employees provide reasonable paid break time for employees who need to express breast milk.

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