Hiring, firing, overtime, leaves, and other employment matters are regulated by state and federal laws. This article discusses some basic employment laws pertaining to Nebraska employees.
Want Ads and Hiring Practices
Employment advertisements cannot discriminate based on personal characteristics such as race, gender, national origin, religion, and disability.
While interviewing prospective employees, employers may not ask questions regarding race, national origin, religion, age, marital status, or children. A disabled person may be asked if he or she requires an accommodation to perform the job.
Minimum Wage and Overtime Laws
Minimum wage and overtime laws are regulated under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Nebraska follows the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for employers of four or more employees unless the business has gross sales of $110,000 or less. A training wage of $4.25 per hour can be paid to teenagers for the first 90 days and to student learners.
Tipped employees must earn at least the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Eligible employees get overtime at 1.5 times the regular applicable minimum wage if they work over 40 hours per week.
Those exempt from the state minimum and overtime laws include agricultural workers; immediate family employees; government employees; bona fide executives, administrative and professional employees; outside salespersons who earn commissions; and certain physically or mentally disabled workers.
Mandatory Safety in the Workplace
State and federal laws require a safe and danger-free work site for all employees. Employees may report safety violations anonymously and are protected from retaliation.
Workers' Compensation Insurance
Most employers with permanent or temporary, full or part-time workers must maintain workers’ compensation coverage. This is a no-fault system for workers injured on the job or who contract an occupational disease. The system provides weekly wage-loss compensation, payment of medical bills and prescriptions, vocational rehabilitation, disability payments, payments for loss of a body part, and death benefits to survivors. Statutory guidelines provide the amount of benefits to be paid.
Those not covered include some seasonal workers and private domestic servants, and a railroad company engaged in interstate or foreign commerce.
Family Leave and Other Time Off
Family and medical leave: Nebraska adheres to the federal Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA), which applies to all public and state employees and to companies with at least 50 employees who have worked at least 1,250 hours in the past year. Covered workers may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per 12-month period to care for a family member, a newborn or newly adopted child or foster child, or a serious medical condition of their own. Employees may also take up to 26 months to care for an on-duty military family member.
Nebraska has no state law more generous than the federal FMLA.
Leave to vote: The state permits workers up to two hours off to vote on Election Day.
No employee may be subjected to any form of harassment under state and federal laws. This includes making sexually explicit comments, jokes, displaying photos, drawings, or sending email that creates a hostile working environment. Employees and supervisors may not engage in conduct that threatens or intimidates another employee or which is unwanted physical contact of any kind.
Unlawful Acts: Harassment usually means sexual conduct, but can refer to any offensive gesture, comment, or other activity directed at workers based on their religion, national origin, gender, race, or disability. The conduct must be ongoing or pervasive.
Retaliation: An employee who has been disciplined, discharged, demoted, or who voluntarily resigns based on a hostile working environment, may have an actionable claim against the employer.
Termination of Employment
At-Will Contract: Employers and employees may end their employment relationship at any time. Employers may fire an employee for any legal reason if there is no written contract or if the contract states that it is “at-will.”
Wrongful Firing: Employers cannot fire someone for a discriminatory reason or if the person was the target of harassment. Other prohibited reasons include pregnancy, age, work-related injuries, or illness.
Vacation Pay: There are no federal laws regarding vacation pay and Nebraska has no law requiring pay for unused vacation time unless the employer had an established policy or employment contract permitting it.
Unemployment and COBRA
To be eligible for unemployment insurance payments, residents or in-state workers must have been terminated through no fault of their own, not be disabled, be actively seeking work, and be able to work.
Federal COBRA law requires employers with at least 20 full-time employees to allow discharged workers the right to continue group health benefits for up to 18-months and up to 36-months if there is a “qualifying event.” Nebraska has a mini-COBRA law covering employers with two to 19 full-time employees for up to nine months and up to 12 months for disabled workers from the day the group coverage ends
Protecting Workers’ Rights
Federal and state employment laws are more complex than presented in this summary. Consult an employment attorney in Nebraska if you have concerns regarding employment laws that affect you.