Employment laws apply to every part of the employment relationship, from hiring to firing. These laws outlaw harassment and discrimination, set wage and hour standards, and require employers to maintain a healthy, safe workplace, among other things.
This article will give you an introduction to some of the laws that protect Wyoming employees.
Wage and Hour Laws in Wyoming
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Wyoming 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 federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour) is higher than Wyoming’s minimum wage ($5.15 an hour), so employees in Wyoming are entitled to earn at least the federal minimum.
Wyoming doesn’t have its own overtime law. Under the FLSA, however, Wyoming 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 fit into 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.
To learn more about Wyoming wage and hour laws, visit the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services. You can find out more about the FLSA from the Wage and Hour Division of the federal Department of Labor.
Workplace Discrimination and Harassment
Under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers may not make job decisions based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), or national origin. Additional 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 part of the employment relationship, 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.
Wyoming law protects employees from discrimination based on all of these traits; employers that have two or more employees must comply with Wyoming discrimination law. In addition, Wyoming laws prohibit discrimination based on off-duty tobacco use and military service or status. To file a complaint or learn more about Wyoming’s laws prohibiting discrimination, visit the website of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services.
Harassment is a type of discrimination. Legally, harassment is defined as unwelcome comments or actions, based on a protected characteristic (for example, sex or age), that create a hostile or offensive working environment or that the victim must put up with as a condition of employment. Sexual harassment – often in the form of unwanted advances, touching, sexual comments, pornography, and so on – is the most familiar type of harassment, but harassment might also be based on race, national origin, 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 Wyoming Department of Workforce Services), or in a lawsuit.
Time Off Work in Wyoming
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 Wyoming 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. Some states have similar laws that give employees leave rights; Wyoming does not, however.
- Military leave. The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and Wyoming 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 Wyoming, employees have similar rights when they need time off for active state duty, training, or a qualifying physical exam.
- Jury duty and voting. Wyoming employers must also allow employees to take unpaid time off work for jury service, and may not threaten, coerce, or intimidate an employee who is called for jury duty. Employers in Wyoming must also give employees up to one hour of paid time off to vote, unless the employee has three consecutive hours of nonwork time when the polls are open.
Workplace Safety and Injuries
Employees have the right to work in a space that is safe and free of known dangers. Employers must offer healthy, safe working conditions and must provide 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 fire, discipline, or otherwise retaliate against employees who complain of unsafe or hazardous working conditions.
If you suffer a workplace injury, you will likely be eligible for workers’ compensation. Most Wyoming 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.
Your Rights When You Leave Your Job in Wyoming
Wyoming 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 workplace dangers, overtime violations, or discrimination.
If you are laid off or otherwise 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 Wyoming. 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 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 Wyoming
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 Wyoming Department of Workforce Services.
Do You Need a Lawyer?
If you believe your employer has violated your workplace rights, you should speak to an experienced Wyoming employment lawyer.