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  • IL Lunch law

    As a non-exempt office worker I need LEGAL clarification, as opposed to corporate policies, regarding the proper use of the "lunch law" in Illinois. This is from the standpoint of one who does NOT want to take lunch.

    I would like a LEGAL read on 1. Why it is so impossible for an employee voluntarily to waive this; AND 2. Why can employees be forced to take beyond what is legally mandated, 20 minutes?

    Especially in offices where there is nowhere but the cafeteria to go, there's no way around it -- by inserting an unpaid break into the middle of a workday employers are in effect mandating an 81/2 to 9 hour workday.

    I do not want my work day interrupted by a forced break. I want to work 8 and go home. Far from being a law to protect workers from overzealous managers, it is being used by employers to stretch the employees' work day to 81/2 or 9 hours, with unpaid time in the middle, so that the employers have "coverage" for a longer period of time. The current administration of this law is not protecting employees; it's being used as a cudgel by employers to force employees into longer days.

  • #2
    That's one way of looking at it. But the fact remains that the employer, not the employee, controls the work hours. If they want you to take a break that is longer than mandated by law, that is their right.
    The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

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    • #3
      Thank you for your reply; I wasn't expecting one so quickly.

      As I read more and more issues on this subject I see reason for confusion because it seems 1. that law is greatly misunderstood by the working public; and 2. that law and corporate policy get mixed in the communicating.

      My next question concerns something I was told flat out: That I had to take lunch because if I worked 8 hours and did not take lunch that I had to be paid for the time I did not take. This makes no sense since this is an unpaid break. Comment?? I'm VERY confused. Thanks. mjb

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      • #4
        If you don't take a lunch, then you are working through the designated lunch period. So, if you work from 8-5:30 without taking the unpaid lunch period, then they would owe you 30 minutes overtime pay (assuming you are a nonexempt employee).

        The real issue here is that, no matter whether the law requires it or not, if the employer requires it, then you take the lunch period. Doesn't matter whether you want to take it or not; you don't get to make that decision. Violating the company work rules is insubordination for which you theoretically could be fired, and you would have no legal recourse.
        I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

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        • #5
          Pattymd,
          (this might be an unintentional duplicate) Thank you for the quick reply! Unfortunately it doesn't address my situation. My employer is willing to consider arranging a no-lunch schedule for me but has been told I will have to be paid for a lunch time, even if I don't take a lunch.

          I haven't seen anything in the law that stipulates to that. I don't understand someone saying they would have to pay me for an unpaid break. Where does that come from??

          In your example you cited an 8 - 5:30 day ( I assume you mixed 8 - 4:30 and 8 - 5). I was asking about a straight 8-hour day, or a 7 1/2 hour day. Thanks!

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          • #6
            See, here's the deal. If you work through the lunch period that is provided you must be paid for that time. Period. If they deduct 30 minutes from your pay for a lunch period that you did not take, you can file a claim for unpaid wages with the state Dept. of Labor.

            However, if there is a company policy that you take a unpaid lunch period, or you are instructed to do so by your supervisor or manager, then you take it. You can be disciplined for violation of company policy up to and including termination, except you cannot be disciplined by withholding pay for time you have actually worked. I don't know how else to say it.
            I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

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            • #7
              The bottom line is that if you work through your lunch break, your employer is required by law to pay you for it. If that puts you into an overtime situation, your employer is required by law to pay you overtime. You won't find that in the law regarding breaks; it's in the wage law at both the Federal and state level. You cannot be required to work without being paid. Your state requires a lunch break. If you do not take one, it is the same as if you worked through it as far as the DOL is concerned and you must be paid for it.

              Your employer, on the other hand, while they are required to pay you for any overtime you work (which includes working through lunch breaks) are not required to put you into an overtime situation. They, not you, have the right to determine what hours you work; they can't be forced to allow you to work overtime that they don't want you to.
              The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

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