If you are not given required meal breaks, or if your meal breaks are interrupted, you may have a claim against your employer. To investigate your claim further, contact the Illinois meal break attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center.

Wage and hour laws are governed by both federal and state law. There is no federal law requiring employers to provide rest breaks. However, under the Illinois One Day Rest in Seven Act (ODRISA), employers must provide meal breaks to their employees in certain circumstances.

ODRISA requires that for any worker who works more than 7 ½ consecutive hours in a day, the employer must permit at least one meal break of 20 minutes or more. The meal break must be provided no later than five hours after the beginning of the shift. Exceptions from this rule apply to hotel room attendants, those who attend to people with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities, certain part-time employees, and those who work under a collective bargaining agreement.

A meal break is considered the employee’s time, and as a result your employer is not required to pay you during meal break time. While the meal break is considered “your time” to do what you like, the employer does not have to allow you to leave the premises. However, because it is your time, your employer cannot require you to perform work during your meal break. The general standard is that the meal break must be “predominantly” for the employee’s benefit.

Any rest breaks given throughout the day cannot be considered part of your meal break; the meal break must be uninterrupted and continuous. While you may prefer to work through lunch and forego your lunch break, perhaps with a goal of leaving early, your employer may require you to take a meal break.

While federal law does not require meal breaks, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does provide comprehensive regulation of the total number of hours worked, for purposes of calculating minimum wage and overtime violations. For a meal break to qualify as a bona fide meal break under FLSA, and therefore not be part of the total hours worked in a day for which compensation is due, the employer cannot require you to eat at your desk or at the machine where you normally work. FLSA also requires that workers must be “completely relieved from duty” for the break to be a bona fide meal break.

Meal break claims can be complex. While they are often driven by company-wide policy, they frequently are proven by testimonial evidence to demonstrate how company policies were actually applied. Because these cases are very fact-intensive, they require thorough investigation and preparation by the plaintiff’s attorney. Over time, denied meal break claims can add up to significant damages. For this reason, and because they do not want to change their policies, employers often fight tooth-and-nail against meal break claims.

At the Chicago Overtime Law Center, our Illinois meal break attorneys understand the subtleties of federal and Illinois meal break regulations. We have successfully handled numerous meal break and other wage and hour claims on behalf of employees. If your meal breaks have been interfered with or denied altogether by your employer, call us at (312) 869-4095 for a free, confidential consultation.

Chicago Overtime Lawyer Blog - Meals