Why You Should Make Sure Your Employees Eat Lunch

Depending on how much of a newshound you are, you might've read about a recent case where Sharon Smiley was fired from her job at a Chicago real estate company for skipping lunch two years ago.

Yes, you read that right.

Even though her employer, Equity Lifestyle Properties Inc. was in the right for canning her -- see the Department of Labor's stance on this law -- she still just won unemployment. That means the employer still has to pay up some even though they did nothing wrong.

The always fantastic ChicagoEmploymentAttorneysBlog.com lays out the key takeaway here:

While Smiley may have thought she was doing a good thing, she was in fact exposing her employer to a wage and hour lawsuit.

Generally, non-exempt employees like receptionists and assistants must be paid for every minute they work. By clocking out, there was no way for Equity Lifestyle to track how much time Smiley was working. By working through lunch, Smiley exposed Equity Lifestyle to the wrath of the Illinois Department of Labor.

So, there you go. When it gets to be lunchtime, make sure your employees aren't at their desk working. They should be out eating fuel so they can work harder for you. Otherwise there are significant and unexpected repercussions. 

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a columnist for EGM. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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