Illinois State Lunch and Break Law Requirements

I find that the subject of lunches and breaks is often of great interest to employees and employers alike. It is interesting to note that Illinois is one of several states with a specific state law regarding this topic.

In the state of Illinois, employers are required to give employees a meal period of at least 20 minutes if they have worked seven and a half hours or more. This meal break must happen no more than five hours after the start of the employee’s work day. This state law does not apply to workers who are under a collective bargaining agreement that covers meal periods, and it also doesn’t apply to workers who monitor individuals with developmental disabilities or mental illness.

I also think it would be worthwhile to review a recent provision in Illinois law that specifically applies to “hotel room attendants” – in other words, people who clean hotel or motel guest rooms. Under this law, hotel room attendants must be given a 30 minute meal period as well as two rest breaks of 15 minutes each in length if they will be working seven hours or more. The law also notes that hotel room attendants must be provided a room on the premises with adequate seating in which they may take their breaks. This law only applies in counties with a population of greater than three million persons.

The Illinois state law does not give specific mention to whether or not lunches or breaks for hotel room attendants or workers in general are to be paid or unpaid, but the guidance of federal law would still apply. The federal law states that shorter breaks (usually 20 minutes or less in length) must be paid. Longer meal times, however (typically 30 minutes or more) may be unpaid if the worker is completely relieved of his or her duties.

The Illinois Complete Labor Law Poster gives helpful information on lunch and break laws at the federal and state level, as well as information on many other labor law issues.

119 thoughts on “Illinois State Lunch and Break Law Requirements

  1. Hi Dustin! Yes, this is legal in Illinois and most other states. An employee who is relieved of work for an unpaid break can be required to remain on the premises. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  2. Hi ,my question is if you work an 8 hour shift not counting lunch break
    Do you have to take you lunch break within the first 5 hours of your shift.
    I work from 8am -430pm. Would I have to take my break by 1pm?

  3. Hi Bartholomew! You are almost right. Under the Illinois statute, the lunch break must begin no later than the 5th hour. So you could start your meal break at 1 pm, but if you started it at 1:01 pm the employer would be in violation of the law. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  4. If an employee in Illinois misses lunch due to work volume, can the employer then force the employee to take that time off later in the week to avoid paying overtime?

  5. Hi Michelle! Yes, an employer in Illinois can always alter the employees work schedule to avoid overtime. This is actually a sign of a well-managed company. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  6. I am a factory worker and we work 3 twelve hour days in a row and then we are off for 3 twelve hour days and so on. During the days that we are off from work another shift is working in our place since our facility continuously operates 24 hours a day. If a worker on our opposite shift takes vacation for their 3 days then we are required by our employer to cover their days including our own which equals out to 9 twelve hour days in a row. Is this legal?

  7. Hi Josh! This is a tough schedule, but it is probably legal. The llinois One Day Rest in Seven Act requires only that an employee be given one day of rest in each calendar week. Suppose the employer’s calendar week begins on Sunday. In your example, you might be off on Wednesday one week, and work your regular Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Then you would work Sunday, Monday and Tuesday for an employee on vacation, followed by your shifts on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. On Saturday you would be off. So, the first week you would be off on Wednesday and the second week you would be off on Saturday. That meets the legal requirement for one day off each week.

    In fact, you could be off Sunday one week, work 12 days in a row and then be off on Saturday the next week, and still have one day of rest per week under the law (which may be why your employer schedules workers this way.) If you feel that the law is being violated, file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor or IDOL at the link below. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

    Read more about this at:

  8. I am a restaurant manager and was told that i dont get a break because i am on salary. Is this Ok? I am allowed a meal at work, but it’s never interrupted and there are no rules communicated to me about when I can eat except for when it’s not busy.

  9. Hi ann! If you mean that your meal is always interrupted, this is a dilemma many exempt Illinnois employees face. The law does not specificallyy exclude exempt employees from meal breaks. However, the person responsible for making sure that your meal break is uninterrupted is… you. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Amelia

  10. My employer takes out a mandatory 1/2 hour for lunch. Can they still do this if you work under 5 hours for the day and you haven’t taken the lunch?

  11. Hi Darla! No, this is not legal. Under both the federal and Illinois minimum wage laws, an employee must be paid for all the time he or she works. The employer can require that you take an unpaid 30-minute break on a shift of any length. If you do not take the break, the employer can discipline or terminate you. However, if you skip the break you must be paid for that work time. You should respectfully raise this issue with your supervisor. Our best guess is that they will pay you for the breaks, and discipline you for not following the company break policy. If they do not pay you, you can file a wage complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor or IDOL at Or, you could simply start following company policy by taking the required breaks. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  12. My father has been working for a company for 14yrs. About 5 years ago the company was under a new management. Since than my father has been working 9 hour shifts without a break or lunch. My father was fired from his job because they told my father they have him on tape leaving his station and going to the store to grab him a lunch because he hasn’t been giving a lunch or break. I wanna know is it illegal for him not getting a break or lunch and what should he do.

  13. Hi Shante! Unfortunately, the old saying “two wrongs don’t make a right” applies here.

    Yes, under the Illinois One Day Rest in Seven Act, your father was entitled to an unpaid meal break of 20 minutes or more on each shift. He could file a complaint about this with the Illinois Department of Labor at

    However, nothing in that law permits the employee to leave the premises for lunch. An employee can be required to remain on the premises during lunch in Illinois. (The employee would be eating a lunch he or she brought from home.) So your father was fired for a) leaving the property without permission and b) doing it while on the clock. Either one of those reasons is enough to fire an employee in Illinois. His best bet is to file for unemployment benefits, and tell them he didn’t know it was against company policy to leave the property. If he is not awarded benefits, he should appeal that decision. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  14. I work from 7:30 AM – 4 PM daily, with a 30 minute unpaid lunch. I have worked at the same place for 2 years. The entire time I have worked here, I have always been given an additional (2) 15 minute breaks.

    Now, my boss tells me that they have never allowed the (15) minute breaks, and a previous employee that hasnt worked here in a year simply “made up” this policy, yet they have allowed me to take the (2) breaks in additional to my lunch every day for two years. Is it legal for them just to stop allowing it after they have this whole time?

  15. Hi Amanda! Unfortunately, yes, this is legal. There is no law that an Illinois employer must provide rest breaks to employees. Even though the employer has been doing so for the past 2 years, they can change the policy at any time. That appears to be what they have done. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  16. I am an employer/manager of an early childhood center. I give all employees who work 7 hours a 30 minute break during the children’s nap time, but most employees have been on the clock for over five hours. I just noticed that the employees need to have a meal break by hour five, but the employees do eat lunch with the children at hour 5 or 6, then get a 30 minute break to leave the room when the children are napping. Is this a violation in the state of Illinois?

  17. Hi Lynda! Unfortunately, you are in violation of the meal break provisions under the Illinois One Day Rest in Seven Act. That law permits a paid on-duty meal period, but only for employees who work monitoring people who are developmentally disabled or mentally ill. The law requires that you give your employees a meal break before the 5th hour of work, and that they be relieved of duties during the break. Eating with the children is not sufficient, because they are still working at that time. You could be fined up to $100 per employee, for each day the employee is not give a meal break before the 5th hour.

    You employees could be required to eat with the children, if they were given an additional break of 20 minutes or more before the 5th hour of work.

    We also question whether the employees are truly relieved of all duties during the children’s nap time. Are the children really completely unsupervised? That would seem unsafe. Are the employees free to leave the room, go read a book, go outside to smoke, or go into another room and watch a movie on their iPhone?If not, they are not relieved of duties. If a child wakes up during the nap period, do the employees have to stop what they are doing and attend to her? If so, then the employees are not truly on a break.

    In Illinois as in other states, “on break” doesn’t simply mean waiting around with nothing to do. It means that even if there is work to be done, the employee can ignore it and pursue her own interests. Even if the employees are not busy, or not actively performing work, if they are on call, they are working.

    If you have 4 employees working during nap time, and 3 go about their own pursuits for 20 minutes or more while one remains in the room with the children, then the 3 employees would be on a break — but the one employee in the room is not on a break. This is true, even if she is reading a book while the children sleep. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  18. I was wondering how long an employer can leave you on suspension with out letting you know what is happening… and then when is it ok to assume you dont have the job anymore and then go to file for unemployment

  19. Hi Johnna! An unpaid suspension can last two weeks or more, but usually the employer keeps in touch with the employee. In many cases, there is a definite date of return. You should try to contact the employer by phone. If they do not return your calls, and you have been off work for 7 days with no indication of when you can return, you can apply for unemployment. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

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