Unfair vs. Illegal: When to Call an Employment Attorney

Unfair vs. Illegal: When to Call an Employment Attorney

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Have you ever experienced something in the workplace that you thought was unfair? How about illegal? The thing is, unfair and illegal are not the same thing when it comes to employment.

Employment laws can be complicated. There are a lot of things that workers may find unfair, but are actually legal. That is because, while there are many laws that employers need to follow, there are not laws for every situation. 

So, what things are illegal and what things are unfair but legal? Read on to learn more. 

Taking Breaks

When it comes to taking breaks while on the job, they are not required, which may seem unfair. There is actually no federal law that requires them, which may be surprising. In Illinois, only those who work more than seven hours get a 20-minute unpaid meal break. Hotel room attendants are the only employees who are entitled to two paid rest breaks that are 15 minutes each, as long as they work seven hours or more. 

What is illegal, though, is not allowing a nursing mother a break to nurse her baby or pump breast milk for her baby. This is required under federal law.

Vacation Time

If your boss does not offer paid vacation time, this may seem unfair, but it is legal. Vacation time is not mandated by any state or federal law. Employers have the right to offer it or not. 

What is not legal, though, is discriminating against a certain class of people by not giving them vacation time. If an employer offers vacation time for certain employees, they must offer it for all of them.


Some employers require mandatory overtime, which means some employees may work more than 40 hours a week. While this may seem unfair, there is no law that limits a person’s workweek to 40 hours. Employers can require employees to work as much as possible.

However, if the employee is not salaried, they must receive overtime pay for any hours worked over 40 in one week. Overtime is paid at 1.5 times the normal rate, so a person earning $20 an hour would get paid $30 an hour in overtime. 

Getting Terminated

Employers do not have to retain certain employees. They can fire an employee at any time for any reason, as long as it is not discriminatory. This may seem very unfair, especially for those who are high-performing employees, but the truth is that employees have the same rights. A worker can also terminate their employment at any time, so it works both ways.

The only exception is that employers cannot fire employees for discriminatory or retaliatory reasons. This means a person cannot be terminated simply because they are Hispanic, a woman, a lesbian, pregnant, over the age of 40, of a certain religion, or of some other protected class. 

Contact a Chicago Employment Attorney

Unfair and illegal are not the same thing. Employers have rights, just like employees do. They can legally do things that may seem unfair to workers.

The Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline can assess your situation and help you determine if the actions were both unfair and illegal. Get a free consultation by filling out the online form or calling our office.