Does My Illinois Employer Have to Give Me Breaks From Work?


Your entitlement to meal and rest breaks depends on state law.



Illinois is one of a handful of states that require employers to provide paid rest breaks to employees. 

Although many employees get meal and rest breaks during the workday, these breaks aren’t legally required everywhere. Federal law doesn’t require employers to give employees time off to eat or rest during their shifts. Employees are entitled to these breaks only if their state requires it.  

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) doesn’t require employers to give breaks, but it does regulate when employers have to pay for breaks they choose to give. 

Should Your Breaks Be Paid?

The FLSA requires employers to pay employees for all hours worked, including time the employer may classify as a “break.” An employer does not have to pay for longer meal breaks during which the employee is relieved of all work duties.

However, an employer must pay for:

  • Breaks during which the employee must work. If, for instance, you are allowed to eat at your desk while working, or you have to wolf down your sandwich during a work meeting, that is not a break. That is work time, for which you must be paid. 
  • Breaks lasting 20 minutes or less. These shorter periods off are considered part of the regular work day, and employees are entitled to be paid for them under the FLSA. 

Illinois Law on Meal Breaks

Illinois employees who work at least seven and a half consecutive hours are entitled to a 20-minute meal break, unpaid. The break must take place no later than five hours after the employee's shift starts. 

Hotel room attendants are entitled to a 30-minute unpaid meal break if they work at least seven consecutive hours. 

Illinois Law on Rest Breaks 

If you work as a hotel room attendant in Illinois, your employer must give you at least two 15-minute paid rest breaks for every day in which you work at least seven hours. 

Other employees are not entitled to rest breaks in Illinois. If your employer chooses to provide rest breaks, you must be paid for breaks that last 20 minutes or less. 



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Jurisdictional relevance: ST

There are versions of this article for each State.