Are you an employee working in Nebraska? Federal and state laws protect your rights on the job, including your right to work free of discrimination, your right to be paid at least the minimum wage, and your right to take leave from work for certain reasons. Below, we cover some of the laws that protect your workplace rights in Nebraska.
Nebraska Laws Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that prohibits employers from making employment decisions based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), or national origin. Additional federal laws prohibit discrimination based on 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 aspect of employment, from hiring, promotions, pay and benefits to leave, discipline, layoffs, and firing. For detailed information on federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, see the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Laws Enforced by the EEOC.
Nebraska law also protects employees from discrimination based on these traits. In addition, employees in Nebraska are protected from discrimination based on marital status. Employers with at least 15 employees are subject to Nebraska’s state laws that prohibit discrimination. To file a complaint or learn more about Nebraska’s laws prohibiting discrimination, go to the website of the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission.
Harassment based on any of these protected traits is also illegal. The law defines harassment as unwelcome comments or actions that create a hostile or offensive working environment or that the victim must endure as a condition of employment. Sexual harassment is the most familiar type of harassment, but harassment might also be based on disability, race, and other protected traits.
If you complain about workplace harassment or discrimination, 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 Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission), or in a lawsuit.
Your Right to Time Off Work in Nebraska
Many employers voluntarily offer their employees paid leave, such as vacation time, sick days, holidays, or paid time off (PTO) benefits. Although a handful of states require employers to give employees paid sick days, neither Nebraska nor federal law requires employers to offer paid leave.
However, employers may be required to offer unpaid leave for reasons such as:
- Military leave. The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and Nebraska 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.
- 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 group health benefits. You have the right to be reinstated when your leave is through.
- Adoption leave. Nebraska law requires employers to provide the same leave to adoptive parents that they provide to biological parents. (This law does not apply to step-parent adoptions, however.)
- Military family leave. Under the federal FMLA and Nebraska law, employers must give employees time off when a family member is called to active military duty, in some circumstances. The FMLA also requires employers to provide leave to employees who need to care for a family member who was seriously injured in active military service.
- Voting. Nebraska employees are entitled to time off work, with pay, to vote. Employers must provide enough time off so employees have a total of two consecutive hours of nonwork time while the polls are open.
- Jury duty. Nebraska employers must also allow employees to take time off work for jury service, and may not threaten employees who are called for jury duty. Employers may not require employees to work a night shift during jury duty. Employees are entitled to their regular pay for jury service, less any fees provided by the court.
Workers’ Compensation and Workplace Safety Laws
In every state, including Nebraska, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to provide a safe workplace, free of known hazards. Employers must provide safe, healthy working conditions as well as the safety equipment and training required for their industry.
Employees have the right to request an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspection if they believe their employer has committed safety violations. It is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who complain of unsafe or hazardous working conditions.
If you suffer an on-the-job injury, you will likely be eligible for workers’ compensation. Most Nebraska employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ comp provides you with a percentage of your usual earnings, pays for necessary medical treatment, and provides vocational rehabilitation and other benefits.
Nebraska Wage and Hour Laws
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Nebraska law set the wage and hour standards employers must follow, including the minimum wage, overtime, and other wage protections. Employers must pay the highest minimum wage applicable to employees, whether set by federal, state, or local law. Currently, the Nebraska minimum wage is $9 an hour, which is higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. The Nebraska minimum wage law applies only to employers who have at least four employees. So, if you work for an employer subject to the state law, you are entitled to at least $9 an hour; if you work for a very small employer, you are entitled to at least the federal minimum of $7.25.
If you earn tips as part of your compensation, your employer can pay you a lower minimum wage – as little as $2.13 per hour – as long as you earn enough in tips to bring your total hourly pay up to at least the full minimum wage. (The tipped wage amount is the same, whether you are entitled to the federal or state minimum wage.)
Under the FLSA and Nebraska law, Nebraska employers must pay employees time and a half if they work more than 40 hours in a week. Not all employees are entitled to earn overtime, however. If you fall within an exception to the overtime laws (for example, because you are a salaried manager as defined by the law), you are an exempt employee, which means you are not eligible for overtime.
You can find out more about Nebraska’s wage and overtime rules at the website of the Nebraska Department of Labor. You can find out more about the FLSA from the Wage and Hour Division of the federal Department of Labor.
Leaving your Nebraska Job
Nebraska employees generally work at will. This means they 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 illegal discrimination or filing a wage claim for unpaid overtime.
If you are laid off or otherwise lose your job through no fault of your own (for example, you are not fired for serious misconduct and you don’t quit voluntarily), you may qualify for unemployment benefits. Once you start receiving benefits, you will have to search for work to continue receiving them. If you are eligible, you will receive a percentage of your previous earnings for 26 weeks while you are looking for a new job. To learn more (or file a claim online), visit the NE Works website, part of the Nebraska Department of Labor.
Under a federal law called the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), you may have the right to continue your health insurance coverage after your employment ends. However, you will have to pay the full premium (including whatever portion your employer used to pay), plus up to 2% of that amount for administrative costs. You can continue these benefits for 18 to 36 months, depending on your situation.
Talk to a Lawyer
If you have questions about your workplace rights, you should speak to an experienced Nebraska employment lawyer.