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Department of Labor Wage Information - Frequently Asked Questions about Rights and Rules

U.S. Department of Labor Wages & Work Hours FAQs
(Frequently Asked Questions)

The federal and state laws regarding pay, overtime, breaks, FLMA, sick leave, vacations, shifts, leaves of absence, minimum wage, and other matters relating to pay rates and times are very complicated. Below are links to pages direct from the United States department of Labor that address many of the common questions around these topics.


Work Hours Leave
Minimum Wage Overtime
Recordkeeping & Reporting Regulations & Standards
Termination Wage Determination


When is overtime due?
When must breaks and meal periods be given?
What is the Family and Medical Leave Act?
What notices must be given before an employee is terminated or laid off?
What is the Fair Labor Standards Act?
Where can I find information on Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) exemption for executive, administrative, professional and outside sales employees?
How many hours per day or per week can an employee work?
How are vacation pay, sick pay, and holiday pay computed and when are they due?
I didn't get my last paycheck. What can I do?
What is the minimum wage?
How many hours is full-time employment? How many hours is part-time employment?
I am having a baby and want to take some time off from work after the baby's birth. How much time am I entitled to take?
I recently accepted a job as a computer software engineer at a higher salary than my previous job. My employer says that I am not entitled to overtime pay. Is this correct?
Can an employee be required to perform work outside of the employee's job description?
What is a Wage Determination?
Is extra pay required for weekend or night work?
When are pay raises required?
When can an employee's scheduled hours of work be changed?
What hours can youth work?
What is the youngest age at which a person can be employed?
I just found out that I am pregnant. Can my employer fire me or reassign me?
Can my mining company make us work overtime? We have been working double-shifts, the miners are tired, and someone is going to get hurt.
What is the Employment Standards Administration?
Who is responsible for paying the worker's salary and benefits, if any, during the pregnancy leave time?
How do we determine what the new prevailing wage rates are in our area?
Must a youth have a work permit to work?
How can I file a complaint if I believe my Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) rights have been violated?
Must young workers be paid the minimum wage?
What is the minimum wage for workers who receive tips?
How do I determine "commensurate wage rates"?
If an employee suffers an illness and the doctor writes a medical certification that the employee is sick, who pays for this sick leave?
Are pay stubs required?
What is Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA)?
Are periodic performance evaluations required?
Do I get paid while on jury duty?
Must employers grant leave to employees called up by the National Guard or Reserve?
Do I get paid while attending a funeral?
Where are the requirements for commensurate wage rates found in the federal regulations?
How are prevailing wage rates established?
How do workers on a construction site know that a project is covered by the Davis-Bacon Act? How do they know the prevailing wage to which they are entitled?
Where can I find minimum wage laws of different states?
How do I subscribe to General Wage Determinations issued under the Davis-Bacon And Related Acts?
Does the Service Contract Act (SCA) apply to all government contract work?
Does the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) apply to part-time employees?
Who must get a W-2 form and how does an employee get his or her W-2 form?
What if my state's minimum wage law is greater than the federal minimum wage?
How are Davis-Bacon wage surveys conducted?
We do McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act (SCA) work for a federal agency and base our commensurate wage rates on the wage determination rate required by the contract. Do we need to adjust these rates?

My question is....Is it mandatory that we take an unpaid 30 minute meal break?? And for the 15 minute breaks, is it paid?? My boss makes us punch out for all 3 breaks. 15 in the a.m, 15 in p.m. and at lunch. I thought the 15 minute breaks were paid for?

This is not legal advice, but my understanding is that those Federal mandatory break rules ONLY apply to minors (under 18 years old). Of course, there are a few regulated industries, like airline pilots and truck drivers that have breaks written into law, but for most of us, it is just our employers policy. And they can always fire us for failing to follow their policy, but we don't have a practical recourse if we don't get the breaks as promised.

Now, some states have their own rules that may apply. Here's a good summary:

As to the question regarding what you are paid for, that's really a case-specific issue that would have to do with your contact and terms of employment. Again, I'm not a lawyer, but common sense says the company could have a policy requiring those breaks and since you are not performing work during them, you wouldn't be paid for them.

According to the table on the page referenced above, Illinois, your state, only has protection for hotel workers, so it looks like you wouldn't be entitled to pay for the breaks.