Employers operating in Illinois should be aware that beginning in January 2023, they will be required to provide additional rest and meal breaks to most non-exempt employees. On May 13, 2022, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed an amendment to the state’s One Day Rest In Seven Act (ODRISA). Not only does the amendment impose additional break times on employees in certain circumstances, it also imposes notice requirements on employers and increases the penalties and monetary damages available for violations of ODRISA.
Additional required breaks
In substance, the ODRISA amendment obliges employers to grant additional rest and meal breaks to employees.
rest breaks – ODRISA currently requires employers to provide covered employees with one day off during each “calendar week” (ie Sunday to Saturday). Under the amendment, employers must give employees one day off for every consecutive seven-day period, regardless of when those days fall during the typical “work week.” Practically, the amendment will make it illegal to schedule an employee for more than six consecutive days.
Meal breaks – ODRISA currently requires employers to provide employees with an unpaid 20-minute meal break for every 7.5 hours worked, to be taken within the first 5 hours of work of the 7.5-hour period. Employers will also be required to provide employees with an additional 20-minute meal break for every 4.5 hours worked beyond the initial 7.5 hours. The practical effect of this change is that employees will be entitled to a second meal break after 12 hours of work, as opposed to 15 hours (which is the current requirement).
In addition to providing the break times discussed above, the amendment also requires employers to provide employees with specific notice of their rights and entitlements under ODRISA. The Illinois Department of Labor will publish this notice prior to the effective date of the amendment, and copies of it must be posted “in one or more conspicuous places” in the workplace. It is important to note that this notice requirement also applies to remote workers, so copies of the notice provided must also be emailed or made available to employees through other electronic means. .
Increased Penalties and Damages for Violations
Finally, and perhaps most particularly for employers, the amendment shifts violations of ODRISA from “petty” to “civil” torts. This change comes with increased penalties – up to $250 per violation for small employers (those with less than 25 employees) and up to $500 per violation for large employers (those with 25 or more employees) . These penalties will be payable to the Ministry of Labour.
In addition to these sanctions, the amendment too requires employers to pay damages directly to employees – again up to $250 per violation for small employers and up to $500 per violation for large employees.
For the purposes of penalties and damages, “violations” must be calculated on an individualized basis for each affected employee. However, the amendment specifies that each consecutive period of seven days during which an employee does not benefit from a compulsory day of rest and each day on which an employee is denied a mandatory meal break is a separate offence.
What can employers do now?
The ODRISA amendment will not take effect until January 2023. Employers, however, can take several steps now to begin preparing for compliance. First, employers should review their current rest and meal break policies and make changes, if necessary. Likewise, employers can prepare a plan to post the required notice and distribute the notice to remote workers.
Then, Illinois employers can begin to determine if their standard scheduling practices will require adjustments. For example, by assessing their current scheduling practices to determine if employees consistently work more than six days in a row, employers can begin to think about how best to provide affected employees with one day off in seven. without disrupting other business practices. or baselines. Additionally, by reviewing the typical length of employee shifts to determine if additional meal breaks will be required, employers can begin to determine whether it would be better suited to business needs to adjust or shorten shifts. shift time of employees accordingly.
Finally, employers should start notifying managers and supervisors of the upcoming changes to ensure compliance officers in the field are aware of the additional break times that many employees will soon be entitled to.