The following question was submitted to John Roska, a lawyer/writer whose weekly newspaper column, "The Law Q&A," runs in the Champaign News Gazette.
My employer sometimes schedules me to work as many as 10 days in a row. Is that legal? Aren’t I entitled to a day off every week?
It depends. If you’re part-time (legally defined as working 20 or less hours per calendar week), you don’t get a mandatory day off. If you’re more than what the law calls part-time, you get a weekly day off.
The Illinois law that applies is called the “One Day Rest in Seven Act” (or, “ODRISA”). In addition to requiring one day off per week, the Act also requires a 20-minute meal break if you work at least 7½ hours a day (which has to be given within the first 5 hours of the shift). It also gives hotel room attendants who work at least 7 hours a day two paid 15-minute breaks, and one 30-minute meal break—but only in Cook County.
The law requiring one day of rest in seven applies to pretty much any employer. It does not, however, apply to all employees. In particular, it does not apply to part-time employees, who are defined as “employees whose total work hours for one employer during a calendar week do not exceed 20.”
Other employees who are NOT covered by the Act are farm workers and coal miners, security guards, and those who are classified by Federal law as “executive, administrative, or professional.” There are a few other exceptions as well.
If you do work more than 20 hours per week for someone, that employer must give you “at least twenty-four consecutive hours of rest in every calendar week.” The Department of Labor says a calendar week begins on Sunday and runs through Saturday.
The law specifies that a day of rest must be “in addition to the regular period of rest allowed at the close of each working day.” An employer who made you work until noon one day, for example, and then report back at noon the next day, could not call that 24 hours off a day of rest.
The law presumes that Sunday will be the one rest day in seven. Employees who must work Sundays must be told that ahead of time and told what their rest day during the week will be. The specific language is: “every employer shall post in a conspicuous place on the premises a schedule containing a list of his employees who are required or allowed to work on Sunday and designating the day of rest for each.”
Employers can get permission from the Department of Labor to work their employees 7 days a week, but they can only do that a maximum of 8 weeks a year.
The Department of Labor also enforces the law on behalf of employees. Their “One Day Rest in Seven Act” number is 312-793-2804, and there is also a complaint form available on the Illinois Department of Labor’s website.