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Non-exempt employee won't take breaks

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  • Non-exempt employee won't take breaks

    A non-exempt employee refuses to take breaks. She works 8am-4pm straight, sometimes 7am-4pm. We pay her for the entire 8 hours, or 9, with time and a half on the 1 hour of overtime. But she still refuses to take breaks. HR is telling me that she is required by law to take at least a 20 minute meal break, but she doesn't want to because she wants to get paid for working through it. Are there any legal issues the company could be held liable for with her voluntarily working through her break? We are in Illinois.

  • #2
    IL is not my state, and I do not know what IL law (if any) on lunch is. Perhaps someone else can address this.

    Related to your other issue, you have given the employee a lawful order and they are willfully disobying the order. Actions should have consequences.
    - Gave the employee a letter ordering them to take the break. Tell them there will be consequences if they fail to do so. Formally copy their personnel file.
    - If they violated the instruction, DO SOMETHING. My recommendation would be a one day suspension without pay. If they keep wilffuly disobeying lawful orders, they will sooner or later be terminated.
    - NEVER give an employee an order that you are not prepared to follow up if that order is ignored.
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
    Philip K. **** (1928-1982)

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    • #3
      The tail doesn't wag the dog. Yes, the company could be held legally liable if someone (and that includes the employee, if she decided to get angry with the company for something else at some point in future) decides to make an issue of it. HR is quite right; in your state the break is required by law. The employee does not get to refuse a legal (and legally required) order with no repercussions.

      If it were me, I'd tell the employee that the next time she works through her break without express, written permission from both her supervisor and HR, she will be sent home on a one day unpaid suspension. Since pay evidently is the driving force here, that may make an impact. If she does it a second time, she will be sent home on a three-day unpaid suspension. And if she does it a third time, she will be fired. Put it in writing, get her to sign it if you can, if she refuses have a witness sign that she was given the opportunity to sign and refused. But for Pete's sake, don't start down this road if you don't have the backing of management - if you tell her she's going to be disciplined for it and nothing comes of it, you're worse off than when you began because now she knows that she can do what she likes with no consequences.
      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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      • #4
        Employees may not give up their employment law rights. Ergo, if she voluntarily works through her breaks, and a break is required by law, then your company is violating the law by allowing her to do this. Period.

        Order her to take her breaks and tell her that if she continues to refuse she is placing the company in legal jeopardy and for that you'll have to fire her.

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        • #5
          You're the boss/employer - not her. You need to tell her, as the others also noted, she must take the state required meal break or there will be consequences she will have to face.
          Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

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