by Adam Hudoba
Illinois’ One Day Rest in Seven Act requires employers to provide certain employees a baseline amount of rest days during a workweek and a baseline amount of breaks during a workday. Significant amendments to the Act (via P.A. 102-0828) went into effect on January 1, 2023, including: (1) changing the definition for “Work Period”; (2) adding additional required meal breaks; (3) adding additional notification requirements; (4) adding additional violation penalties; and (5) clarifying the Act’s enforcement.
Given that employees now have a monetary incentive to file a complaint against their employer for violating the Act, we are expecting a steep increase in the number of complaints filed.
New Definition for “Work Period”
Before, covered employers were required to provide employees with at least 24 consecutive hours of rest during “every calendar week” (the rest hours at the close of each working day did not count). As a result, an employer could lawfully require employees to work for up to 12 consecutive days (e.g., if the first rest day was allowed on Sunday, an employer would comply by permitting a second rest day on the Saturday 13 days later). Post-amendment, this will no longer be the case: covered employers must provide employees a minimum of 24 hours of rest within every consecutive 7-day period.
Additional Required Meal Breaks
Prior to the Act’s amendments, covered employers were required to provide covered employees who worked continuously for 7.5 hours or longer a meal break of at least 20 minutes. This meal break was required to begin no later than 5 hours after the start of the work period.
Now, covered employees must be given a 20-minute meal break: (1) if working continuously for more than 7.5 hours, no later than 5 hours into the shift; and (2) for each continuous period of 4.5 hours worked thereafter. Also, in addition to meal breaks, reasonable restroom breaks must now be provided; restroom breaks do not offset required meal break requirements.
However, while the Act continues to merely require that employers “permit” their employees to take meal breaks, it does not address how meal break waivers by the employee are to be handled by employers. Because of the new monetary incentives for employees to file complaints and the increased penalties against employers for violations, an employer’s failure to sufficiently document employee waivers could result in substantial losses.
Additional Notification Requirements
The Act as amended further requires that covered employers post a notice summarizing the Act’s requirements and information on how to file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor. For employees reporting to a physical workplace, the notice is to be posted “in one or more conspicuous places on the premises” and “where notices to employees are customarily posted.” For “employees who do not regularly report to a physical workplace, and instead work remotely or travel for work,” the employer is to “provide the notice by email… or on a website, regularly used by the employer to communicate work-related information, that all employees are able to regularly access, freely and without interference.”
A copy of this notice is available on the Department of Labor’s website (https://labor.illinois.gov/employers/posters.html).
Additional Penalties for Violations
Following amendment, the Act’s penalties have been made more severe. Before, a violation of the Act was a petty offense punishable by a fine of not less than $25 or more than $100 for each “offense.” Now, employers in violation “shall be guilty of a civil offense” and subjected to penalties depending on how many employees they have. For larger employers, penalties have been increased to $500 per offense. This is significant, as a separate “offense” under the Act may be found for:
- “Each week that an employee is found to not have been allowed 24 consecutive hours of rest…”; and
- “Each day that an employee is found not to have been provided a meal period.”
A violation of the notification requirement will constitute a single “offense” and is subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $250, payable to the Illinois Department of Labor, but no damages are made available to affected employees.
Finally, the Act as amended now provides that the Director of the Illinois Department of Labor has authority to require depositions, subpoenas, and other discovery. Fortunately for employers, employees will likely still have no private right of action to enforce the Act, as it continues to require the Director to enforce the provisions and prosecute all violations.
If you have questions about your compliance with the Act, we recommend you contact one of the attorneys.