If you work in Indiana, you should know about the federal and Indiana employment laws that protect employee rights in every part of the employment relationship, from hiring to firing. These laws prohibit discrimination, require employers to pay the minimum wage and overtime, and give you certain leave rights, among other things. In this article, you’ll learn about the basic laws that protect Indiana employees.
Discrimination and Harassment
Federal law prohibits employers from making job decisions based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (if the employee is at least 40 years old), disability, or genetic information. Employers with at least 15 employees are subject to these laws (for age discrimination, employers with at least 20 employees must comply with the law). Employers may not discriminate in any part of the hiring process, from interview questions and job postings to hiring, promotions, pay and benefits, time off, discipline, and firing. For detailed information on federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, see the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Laws Enforced by the EEOC.
In addition, Indiana law protects employees from discrimination based on their ancestry, off-duty use of tobacco products, and expunged or sealed conviction or arrest records. In Indiana, employers with six or more employees must comply with these laws prohibiting workplace discrimination. Find out more about Indiana state laws prohibiting discrimination at the website of the Indiana Civil Rights Commission.
These state and federal laws also prohibit harassment based on these characteristics. Harassment is unwelcome comments, conduct, or behavior on the job, based on these characteristics (for example, race or sex), that either the victim must put up with as a condition of employment or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. Sexual harassment – often in the form of crude comments, propositions, unwanted touching, and so on – is the most well-known type of harassment, but harassment might also be based on race, age, and so on.
If you complaint about workplace discrimination or harassment, you are protected from retaliation. Your employer may not discipline, fire, or take other negative action against you because you complain within the company, to a government agency (like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Indiana Civil Rights Commission), or in a lawsuit.
Minimum Wage and Overtime Rules
State and federal law set the rules for minimum wage, overtime, and other wage and hour protections. Employers must pay the highest minimum wage applicable to employees, whether set by federal, state, or local law. Currently, the Indiana minimum wage is the same as the federal minimum wage: $7.25 an hour.
In Indiana, your employer must pay you the overtime premium – one-and-a-half times your usual hourly rate – if you work more than 40 hours in a week. Not all employees are entitled to earn overtime, however: If you are exempt (because, for example, you are a salaried executive or professional employee), you may not be eligible for overtime. (Learn more about exempt employees and overtime.)
Workplace Safety and Injuries
Employees have the right to a safe workplace. Employers must offer working conditions free of known dangers and perform appropriate safety training. Should a complaint arise, employees have the right to request an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety inspection. It is illegal for employers to retaliate or discriminate against, or to fire, employees who point out unsafe or hazardous working conditions.
If you are injured on the job, you will likely be eligible for workers’ compensation. Most Indiana employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ comp pays you part of your usual earnings, pays for necessary medical treatment, and provides vocational rehabilitation and other benefits.
Time Off Work
Many employers offer their employees leave with pay, in the form of sick days, vacation time, holidays, or paid time off (PTO) benefits. Although a handful of states require employers to give employees paid sick days, neither Indiana nor federal law requires employers to offer any paid leave benefits.
However, employers are required to offer unpaid leave in some situations, including:
- Family and medical leave. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers with at least 50 employees to give eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off per year for illness and caregiving, and sometimes longer. While you are on FMLA leave, your employer must continue your benefits. You have the right to be reinstated when your leave is through.
- Military family leave. The FMLA also allows employees to take leave to handle certain practical matters arising from a family member’s military deployment. Indiana has its own law requiring employers to give eligible employees up to ten days off per year when a family member is called to active duty and thereafter.
- Military leave. The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and Indiana law both require employers to allow employees to take leave from work for federal or state military service or duty. Employees must be reinstated after their leave, and may not be discriminated against based on their service. In Indiana, employers must also give employees who are members of the reserves up to 15 days of leave per year for training.
- Jury duty. Indiana employers must also allow employees to take time off work to serve on a jury (unpaid). Although some states also require employers to provide time off for voting, Indiana does not.
When Employment Ends
In Indiana, employees generally work at will. This means they can quit at any time, and can be fired at any time, for any reason that is not illegal. However, even at-will employees may not be fired for reasons that are discriminatory or retaliatory. You may not be fired, for example, for complaining about wage and hour violations, discrimination, or workplace hazards.
Employers must give departing employees their final paychecks on the next scheduled payday. Under Indiana law, your accrued, unused vacation time must be included in your final paycheck.
If you become unemployed through no fault of your own (that is, you don’t voluntarily quit your job and you are not fired for serious misconduct), you will likely be eligible for unemployment benefits in Indiana. You must meet certain eligibility requirements, including a minimum earnings requirement. You must also look for work actively to continue receiving benefits. If you are eligible, you will receive a percentage of your previous earnings for up to 26 weeks, while you are looking for a new job.
A federal law called the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives you the right to continue your health insurance coverage after your employment ends. You must pay the full premium (including whatever portion your employer used to pay). You can continue these benefits for 18 to 36 months, depending on your situation and whether you have dependents.
More Information on Employment Laws in Indiana
For details on federal laws, including workers' comp, the FMLA, and minimum wage, see Summary of the Major Laws of the Department of Labor on the U.S. Department of Labor website. For state rules, see the Indiana Department or Labor website.
Do You Need a Lawyer?
If you believe your employer has violated your workplace rights, you should speak to an experienced Indiana employment lawyer.