I am a manager of a very small, service oriented company(20 employees). I was promoted 3 years ago to my current position from the bookkeeper’s position. I came with no previous HR experience, training or college degree. I have learned what I do know, right or wrong, by researching. I cant seem to find the answer to this question though…….

Do employees HAVE to take a 1/2 hr break after 7.5 hours of work, or do we just have to allow them to. Is it their choice or do we have to force them to break?We have a lot of employees who don’t want to take a break to get done early. I have called the state of Illinois on this and they read the information to me which is as clear as mud. They cant tell me either. Any input?

I’m so glad the state was able to clear that up for you! Helpful, aren’t they? I’m going to be even less helpful. Here’s what the Department of Labor says:

Federal law does not require lunch or coffee breaks. However, when employers do offer short breaks (usually lasting about 5 to 20 minutes), federal law considers the breaks work-time that must be paid…
Bona fide meal periods (typically lasting at least 30 minutes), serve a different purpose than coffee or snack breaks and, thus, are not work time and are not compensable.

So, it looks like you are safe on a Federal side. On an Illinois side, I have no idea either. You could spend money consulting a labor and employment lawyer, who will charge you a lot to say that the law is ambiguous.

Here is what I (a non Illinois resident, non attorney) would do. Make it clear that everyone who wants to take a 30 minute lunch can. If they prefer to work straight through, that’s fine and they can leave 30 minutes early. But, don’t reward people for not taking the lunch. (No, “Gee, look at Bob. He gets so much done that he doesn’t need a break!”) I would also provide a twenty minute paid break as well.

That’s what I would do, anyway. But if the government shows up at your doorstep I don’t know you and I don’t know where you got such a foolish idea.

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2 thoughts on “Government Help

  1. I’m in the marketing department for an employee benefits and HR consulting firm in CA. We host free seminars for clients and prospective clients on topics such as labor laws and legislative updates. You may want to see if there are any free (or inexpensive) legislative update seminars in your area that you can attend. Even if they don’t cover your particular question, there are usually labor attorneys available to answer any questions you may have, such as what the meal laws are in your state. If they’re good, they can give you a straight answer. In CA, for example, 30-minute meal periods are required, based on the number of hours worked, and the company can get huge penalties for non-compliance.

  2. From http://www.state.il.us/agency/idol/laws/Law140.htm. The Illinois “One Day Rest in Seven Act” ODRISA, very euphonic! Provides for employees a minimum of twenty four hours of rest in each calendar week and a meal period of 20 minutes for every 7 1/2 hour shift beginning no later than 5 hours after the start of the shift. The law allows employers to secure permits from the Department to work employees the 7th day provided that the employees have voluntarily elected to work.”
    A bit of research for your respondent, HR Lady. Also, I am looking for a job in HR, if they are interested. Hewton

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