All workers are protected by state and federal labor laws from hiring through discharge. Idaho workers should know the particular employment laws that affect them.

Hiring Basics

When making hiring decisions, employers cannot consider factors such as race, gender, national origin, religion or disability. Employers are generally free to ask an applicant whatever they like as long as they refrain from such inquiries, as well as those regarding marital status and children. An employer can ask if a disabled person needs an accommodation to perform his or her job.

Minimum Wages and Overtime

The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act determines which workers are covered under minimum wage and overtime requirements. Idaho’s minimum wage is the same as the federal rate, $7.25 an hour. Employees earning a guaranteed monthly wage of $2,000 or more are exempt from state minimum wage and overtime laws. Employers can pay tipped employees as little as $3.35 an hour provided their tips equal the hourly minimum wage of $7.25 for each hour worked. Eligible employees get overtime if they work over 40 hours per week. Sugar cane, dairy, and seasonal farm workers must work more than 48 hours a week to qualify for overtime. Certain agricultural workers, outside salespersons, domestic service workers, bona fide executives, administrative and professional salaried workers, and harvest workers who are paid on a piece-rate basis are exempt.

Workplace Safety

All employees must be guaranteed a safe working environment under state and federal OSHA and safety laws. Employees can anonymously report safety violations and are entitled to protection from retaliation by their employers.

Work-Related Injuries

Most employers must maintain workers compensation coverage. This no-fault insurance system provides wage loss compensation, rehabilitation, disability payments, and medical coverage for work-related injuries or illnesses, as well as survivor death benefits. Statutory guidelines provide the amount of benefits that must be paid. Employees who aren't covered by workers compensation insurance include family members of a sole proprietor if they reside in the employer’s household, household domestic workers, casual workers, and associate real estate salespersons who are paid solely on a commission basis.

Laws Regarding Time Off

Idaho follows the federal Family and Medical Leave Act for individuals who work for companies with at least 50 employees, as well as all public employees. They must have worked for at least 12 months or 1,250 hours in the past year. Covered employees can take up to 12 weeks off per 12 months worked if they suffer a serious medical condition, to care for a family member, or to care for a newborn or newly adopted child. Employees can take up to 26 months off to care for a military family member. There is no comparable state act, and no state law requires employers to allow employees time off to vote.

Harassment of Workers

Harassment of employees is illegal, including sexually explicit comments, lewd jokes, photos, sexual or sexually violent drawings, or email that creates a hostile working environment. Employees and supervisors may not threaten or intimidate employees or engage in unwelcome physical contact of any kind. Harassment includes not only sexual conduct, but any offensive gestures or comments based on an employee's religion, national origin, gender, race or disability. The conduct must be ongoing or pervasive. An employee who has been disciplined, discharged, demoted or who voluntarily resigns because of a hostile work environment may have a legal claim against the employer.

Termination or Discharge

Like nearly every other state, Idaho allows its employers to discharge an employee for any reason and without notice if there is no written contract or if the contract states that employment is “at will.” Employers are prohibited from firing workers based on discrimination, pregnancy, age, for a work-related injury or illness, or for complaining about instances of harassment. Vacation time is considered a benefit so employees are not entitled to payment for unused time if they're discharged.

Unemployment/COBRA

To qualify for unemployment benefits, residents or in-state workers must have been discharged through no fault of their own. They must not be disabled, must be actively seeking work, must not be filing ongoing claims, and must be able to work to qualify for benefits. State law requires that employers with at least 20 full-time employees allow discharged workers the right to continue group health benefits for up to 12 months after leaving their position. The state has a mini-COBRA law that requires companies to offer family members and dependents of covered employees continued coverage after the total disability or death of the covered employee. They're entitled to this coverage for no less than 12 months beyond the policy’s expiration date.

Consult an Employment Attorney

Employment laws are more complex than outlined in this brief outline. Consult an Idaho employment attorney if you have questions regarding employment issues.

Tagged as: Employment Discrimination, Labor and Employment, Wrongful Termination