Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Give Your Employees a Break!

Most employers love a gung-ho employee. The employee who will volunteer to work weekends and who rarely takes a day off. While employers may be tempted schedule these employees to work every day, doing so may not be permitted by Illinois law. 

The One Day of Rest in Seven Act (820 ILCS 140/1, et seq.) requires an employer to provide an employee with at least 24 consecutive hours off of work in every 7-day period. This means that an employee who works Monday through Saturday cannot be required to work Sunday. 

  • There are, however, a number of employees who are exempt from this law. These include:
  • Employees working less than 20-hours-a-week;
  • Executive, administrative, or professional employees;
  • Employees who are needed in case of an emergency;
  • Employees in agriculture or coal mining;
  • Watchmen, security guards, or sailors;

These employees can be required to work 7-days-in-a-row without a 24-hour break. 

This law also permits employees who work at least 7 ½ continuous hours to take a 20-minute break to eat. This break must come within the first 5 hours of the employee starting work. An employer is not permitted to retaliate against an employee who exercises any of the rights provided by this law, and may be subject to a lawsuit if it does.

If an employer, unaware of this law, realizes that he or she has violated it, there is some good news: an employee cannot sue an employer for this violation (although an employee can sue an employer for retaliating against the employee for exercising his or her rights under the law). Only the Illinois Department of Labor can bring a legal proceeding against an employer for violating this law. The penalty for a violation is a fine in the range of $25-$100. 

If an employer absolutely needs an employee to work 7-days-in-a-row, it may apply for a permit that authorizes an employee to do so. However, no employee may work 7 days in a week more than 8 times a year. 

Illinois has a number of wage and payment laws like the One Day of Rest in Seven Act which employers should be aware of. Contact an Ancel Glink attorney for information on these laws.