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Idaho Employment and Labor Laws

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As of August 2023, the state of Idaho has more than 900,000 employed individuals who are working in various industries. This is a sizable workforce, especially when compared to the state’s population of over 1.9 million people.

According to the Idaho Department of Labor, more than 1,800 individuals joined the state’s labor force in August, possibly taking advantage of the 55,000 job openings that the state had in July. However, despite these new jobs, Idaho’s unemployment rate increased from 2.8% in July to 3% in August.

In addition to unemployment, occasional issues related to employment and labor law violations exist in Idaho. These often involve employers who wrongfully terminate employees or fail to adhere to the state’s laws involving their workers’ wages and right to work. 

While employees may think that their options are limited when encountering these issues, there are actually statutory regulations that are in place to help them combat problems brought about by unlawful termination and breaches of contract.

For instance, Idaho’s employment laws govern and regulate the relationship between employers and employees, allowing them to resolve issues that affect contracts, wages, and other similar aspects.

On the other hand, the state’s labor laws protect the rights of workers as a whole, including forming unions and presenting demands related to salary, leaves of absence, and working time. While employment and labor laws are technically different areas of the law, both focus on safeguarding the rights of workers.

To help workers in Idaho understand these laws better, this article will offer an overview of the details behind them, along with the statutory guidelines that they may encounter and the legal options that they can take in asserting their rights as employees.

Idaho’s Right-to-Work and Union Laws

As a right-to-work state, Idaho grants employees the freedom to join labor organizations without the threat of getting fired from their jobs. 

To protect this right, the state does not let employers treat union members differently when hiring, promoting, or firing workers. 

Unions are also subject to regulations. They are prohibited from coercing or intimidating workers or their families into joining their organization or providing financial support. In addition, union members cannot be forced to pay any assessments or dues to their organization or any pro-rata portion of such dues to a third-party group or charity. 

Idaho law also dictates that no contract between a labor organization and an employer may infringe upon the rights of the latter, and no union is allowed to picket, stage a strike, or boycott their employer for the sole purpose of pressuring them to enter an unlawful agreement. Any contract that violates an employer’s rights is automatically declared null and void and thus not legally binding under Idaho law.

Moreover, no labor organization in Idaho may pay a wage subsidy or rebate taken from the wages, dues, or assessments of its members to subsidize a contractor or subcontractor, nor may they use any fund financed by employee wages to benefit a contractor or subcontractor.

Any organization member who violates Idaho’s right-to-work and union laws will face a minimum fine of $1,000 and imprisonment for up to 90 days. Those who attempt to subsidize a contractor or subcontractor illegally will be fined at least $10,000 on their first offense, $25,000 on their second offense, and $100,000 on their third and subsequent offenses.

Idaho’s Minimum Wage Law

Under Idaho’s minimum wage law, all employees must be paid no less than $7.25 per hour for their work, with the amount being in line with the federal minimum wage. Any worker below 20 years of age must be paid at least $4.25 per hour for the first 90 consecutive calendar days of their employment. As such, no employer can reduce the hours, wages, or benefits of such workers in order to keep hiring and paying employees within the $4.25 minimum.

On the other hand, if an employee regularly receives at least $30 a month in tips, the amount of tips they receive will be considered an increase in their direct wages, meaning their employer can pay them less. However, the amount of direct wages for a tipped employee must not fall below $3.35. If the total payment a tipped employer receives is below the state’s minimum wage of $7.25, the employer must make up for the difference. 

It should be noted that there are specific workers who are exempted from Idaho’s minimum wage requirements. These include:

  • Outside salesmen.

  • Domestic service employees.

  • Seasonal employees of a nonprofit camping program.

  • Children under the age of 16 who are working part-time or odd jobs for a maximum of four hours a day with any one employer.

  • Workers under the age of 18 who are employed by an immediate family member or under a family business.

  • Those who work in a bona fide executive, professional, or administrative capacity.

Under Idaho law, employers cannot fire or discriminate against any employee who asserts their minimum wage rights. Any employer who attempts to do so can be charged with discrimination or wrongful termination.

Idaho’s Workers’ Compensation Law

Most employers in Idaho must compensate workers who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses. An injured worker has a maximum of 60 days to report any injury they sustain and one year to file a claim for compensation. Their employer must then provide them with the medical treatment they need and grant them benefits in the form of wage replacement if they cannot work due to their injury.

A worker will only receive their lost wages after five days from the date of their injury, though they can receive them immediately if they have been admitted to a hospital. If their disability due to injury lasts for more than two weeks, they will also be compensated for the first five days. The amount of income benefits they receive must not fall below 45% or exceed 90% of the state’s average weekly wage. 

If an employer denies the claim of an injured employee, the latter can file a complaint with the Idaho Industrial Commission and schedule a hearing for their case. For this, they can seek the help of a workers’ compensation attorney who can inform them of their rights and legal options, as well as the processes involved in filing a claim or complaint.

Is Idaho an At-Will Employment State?

According to the state’s Department of Labor, Idaho is a “work at will” employment state, meaning an employee or their employer can terminate an employment relationship at any time, even without notice or cause. 

As such, employers can fire workers for misconduct or poor performance, while employees are free to resign when they wish. Under at-will rules, employment relationships in the state have no set lengths, and they are often subject to the terms and conditions of any employer contract, policy, or union agreement.

If there’s a contract that limits an employer’s ability to dismiss employees, they cannot terminate anyone unless they have a valid reason for doing so. Additionally, they cannot fire workers in violation of public policy or for any retaliatory or discriminatory reason. 

Before terminating a worker, the employer must make sure they have a record of the warnings and reprimands they have given to the employee, as well as reports of any offenses the employee has committed.

Employers must terminate workers in a private meeting where a witness will oversee the proceedings. This is to prevent any potential issues in case the employer or their employee ends up disputing what was specified in the meeting. 

In addition, the state requires employers to issue a final paycheck to the terminated employee within the next 10 business days or on the next scheduled payday, whichever comes first. If the worker asks for this paycheck in advance, the employer must provide it within 48 hours after being notified.

What Qualifies as Wrongful Termination in Idaho?

Any employer who violates any of the following guidelines can be charged with wrongful termination. In Idaho, any employer who has a minimum of five workers must adhere to these rules or risk being sued.

Wrongful Termination Due To Retaliatory or Discriminatory Reasons

As mentioned above, employees in Idaho cannot fire their employees in retaliation for certain actions, such as:

  • Asserting their employment rights by filing for medical or family leave or by pursuing wage claims.

  • Participating in an internal investigation involving a workplace issue or testifying as a witness in court regarding such an issue.

  • Refusing to carry out an illegal act as ordered by their employer.

Employers also cannot terminate an employee because of the latter’s age (if they are at least 40 years old), race, religion, gender, or disability. Additionally, workers cannot be terminated for becoming pregnant and being unable to work as a result.

Wrongful Termination Due To a Breach of Employment Contract

No employer in Idaho may fire a worker in violation of an employment contract that provides the latter with job security and thus protects them from being terminated under at-will regulations. Such contracts can be either oral or written, with the employer stating in their own words or writing that they cannot fire a worker unless they have a valid reason.

A contract can also be “implied” in the workplace’s official rules; for example, if a worker’s handbook states that they cannot be fired for any reason unless their employer first takes certain disciplinary steps, the handbook’s guidelines can be considered an implied contract that protects the worker from a sudden and consequently unlawful termination. If their employer fires them without adhering to such rules, the worker can sue them.

How Do You Report an Employer in Idaho for Wrongful Termination?

Any worker in Idaho who has been wrongfully terminated by their employer can approach the state’s Human Rights Commission (as a prerequisite for filing a lawsuit against their employer) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (to file a federal claim). 

Both agencies enforce state and federal employment laws and can help employees in any cases related to wrongful termination by guiding them on what they can do. Their staff members can also help employees draft an administrative complaint using any information that they provide regarding their case. From there, the worker can serve a notice to their employer regarding their intent to pursue a lawsuit or claim against them.

Alternatively, wrongfully terminated employees can seek the assistance of employment lawyers in the state prior to filing any complaint or claim. A lawyer can help them navigate the statutory process behind their case and inform them of any requirements and factors that they might encounter.

In addition, lawyers can offer workers insights regarding their rights and assist them in drafting a complaint. As such, this will reduce some of the difficulties in preparing a suit against their employer. Those living in Boise and any nearby areas may look for law firms that they can contact for potential legal assistance and representation in their case.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Termination Cases in Idaho?

According to Idaho’s civil statute of limitations, employees who are wrongfully terminated due to any sort of discrimination have a maximum of one year to sue their employer, starting at the time of the alleged discriminatory act. 

If a worker wishes to file a federal complaint with the EEOC, they only have up to 180 days to do so, or 300 days if the discrimination they experienced is also prohibited under Idaho law. Once the EEOC provides a worker with a letter giving them the right to sue their employer, the worker will have a maximum of 90 days to file the suit.

On the other hand, if an employer unlawfully fired a worker through a breach of contract, they will be given four years to file a suit if their case involves an oral contract and five years if it concerns a written contract. The former follows a shorter statute of limitations since the case’s details and progression will rely on the recollections of both parties regarding what they have discussed.

How Much Can Someone Sue an Employer in Idaho for Wrongful Termination?

On average, a worker can recover between $5,000 and $100,000 in a settlement with the employer regarding wrongful termination. The exact amount may vary and can even exceed this average since the facts and circumstances behind each case are unique. 

One example is a 2011 case where a Zimbabwe-born black woman was fired not long after raising issues regarding the discriminatory treatment she received from her supervisors at her workplace. After pursuing a lawsuit with the help of the EEOC, she received a settlement worth $30,000.

Additionally, litigation costs and other legal fees can cost an employer a lot more if a case reaches the courtroom. In such cases, an unlawfully terminated employee can receive a damage award ranging from $110,000 to $350,000. This can go even higher, as seen in the 2012 case involving the unlawful termination of Pam Lowe, the former Director of Transportation at the Idaho Transportation Board. 

Lowe attempted to reduce the multimillion-dollar contracts of two companies that were politically connected to the department. But certain politicians opposed to her efforts proposed a bill that eventually led to her termination. After filing a lawsuit for wrongful firing, Lowe received a settlement of $750,000 from the state. 

In general, most employers choose to settle out of court due to the higher losses they could potentially face in a legal battle. The total settlement an employee can receive is often dictated by factors such as the emotional distress they have suffered, the reason for their unlawful termination, and any lost benefits or wages.

Resources for Employees in Idaho

Idaho State Bar

The Idaho State Bar has a Lawyer Referral Service where people can submit applications for half-hour consultations with licensed lawyers in the organization. A referral costs $35, but individuals whose concerns involve workers’ compensation can receive referrals for free. The website also has different legal resources that redirect to state agencies that can provide assistance to people. These resources cover various areas of the law, including employment matters such as workplace discrimination, unpaid wages, and workers’ compensation.

The State of Idaho Website - Employee Rights & Laws

The Employee Rights & Laws section of Idaho’s official website allows workers to file claims for unpaid wages and submit complaints involving their employer to the state’s Human Rights Commission or the Department of Labor. The section also offers access to a variety of resources related to local employment and labor laws. In addition, it can redirect users to other agencies that can assist them with their concerns, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Idaho Industrial Commission.

Idaho Law Foundation - Idaho Volunteer Lawyers Program

The Idaho Volunteer Lawyers Program is open to low-income state residents who have problems related to civil law matters, including employment and unemployment. People can apply to the program to receive referrals to volunteer attorneys who can consult with them regarding their cases and represent them at no cost. 

Additionally, the program lets users schedule an appointment with legal clinics for a free 30-minute consultation and assistance in completing self-help forms. For additional questions, people can contact the Idaho Law Foundation at 208-334-4500 or isbwebsite@isb.idaho.gov.

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