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Mississippi Employment and Labor Laws

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Mississippi does not have a Department of Labor to handle issues that arise in the workplace. And since it is an at-will employment state, employers fire their workers for whatever reason, with no laws to protect them. The state also depends so much on federal employment laws that it does not have its own anti-discrimination legislation and even limits workers’ right to unionize.

Because of these circumstances, Mississippi ranked 48th out of 50 in America’s top states for business in 2023. It also ranked as the second least educated state in the country, with only 23% of its population aged 25 and above having a bachelor’s degree or higher, making its workforce less competitive and unproductive.

Adding to the state’s lack of employment laws is the fact that Mississippi does not pay enough attention to the labor constitution, such as setting proper wage and hour requirements guidelines. These pay gaps and lack of job security make it difficult for employees to stay in their current positions.

The issues plaguing Mississippi's labor force persist, in part due to the employees’ lack of awareness about their rights on the job. This article provides information on what Mississippi employees must know about the state’s employment and labor laws and the actions that they can take if they are discriminated against at work, get fired by an employer retaliating against them, or are robbed of their overtime pay.

Mississippi Wage and Hour Laws

Minimum Wage Requirements

Mississippi is one of the five states in the U.S., along with Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina, that have not established their own minimum wage rates. Because of this, most employees in the Magnolia State are required to be paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour instead. Similarly, tipped workers are entitled to the minimum federal tipped wage of $2.13 per hour.

Overtime Requirements

Mississippi law requires employers to pay employees 1.5 times the regular hourly rate for employees who work way past the 40-hour workweek limit. There are certain employees who are exempt from being paid overtime wages in Mississippi, which include:

  • Farm workers.

  • Employees of recreational establishments or seasonal amusement.

  • Babysitters.

  • Executives and professional employees.

  • Workers in motion picture theaters.

  • News editors, announcers, and chief engineers working in non-metropolitan broadcasting systems.

Rest Breaks Requirements

Employers in Mississippi are not required by law to provide their employees with meal and rest breaks. However, if the employer does provide its workers with rest breaks in accordance with federal law, the employee will only be paid for the rest break if it lasts more than 20 minutes.

Workplace Leave Requirements in Mississippi

In Mississippi, there are various types of required and non-required leaves for employees. To give you a more detailed perspective on their classifications, refer to the tables below.

Non-required Leaves

Voting Time

Mississippi is one of the many states in the U.S. where employers are not required to provide paid time off to employees to vote.

Bereavement

Employers are not required to offer bereavement leave to their employees, regardless of whether it is paid or unpaid.

Sick Leave

Employers in Mississippi are not required by state law to provide sick leave for their employers, either paid or unpaid.

Vacation Leave

Employees are not required to be given leave time for vacation. However, a number of employers in Mississippi provide this type of leave as a benefit to their workers and usually state this in the contract upon hiring.

Required Leaves

Holiday Leave

There’s no law requiring private employers to give their workers paid or unpaid time off work during state holidays.

Jury Duty Leave

If an employee in Mississippi has been summoned by a jury to attend a hearing, employers are required to let them take a leave from work. Mississippi also has regulations against employers firing or punishing their employees for taking jury duty leave.

Family and Medical Leave

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, employers in Mississippi are required to provide their employees with unpaid leave for family and medical problems. This leave will be up to 12 weeks of time off work per year.

Eligible employees are those who have worked for the company for at least one year and have delivered a minimum of 1,250 work hours. They should also be stationed at a location where at least 50 employees within 75 miles are hired by the employer.

Employees can use the FMLA benefits to place a child in foster care, tend to a newborn, and take care of themselves or their family members who are seriously ill.

Military Leave

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act protects employees who serve in the National Guard, a state militia, and the U.S. Armed Forces from receiving backlash or discrimination in the workplace. This federal law is designed to help these employees have the same benefits and pay if they ever return to their jobs after serving in the military.

Crime Victim Leave

Employees who have been victims of any criminal acts are required to be given either paid or unpaid leave from work, whether they are recovering from the incident or attending a legal procedure.

Mississippi Child Labor Laws

Mississippi has child labor laws designed to protect people under the age of 18 from exploitation in the workplace and highlight that children should prioritize their education. However, there are certain situations where a minor wishes to have a part-time job or when companies require more manpower, especially for those in seasonal industries. 

The child labor laws in Mississippi state that an employer cannot hire children under the age of 14. Eligible minors need to present an Employment Certificate to their employer. To get this certificate, the child or their guardian must contact the minor’s school and have the administrator determine if the child should really work. 

Mississippi labor laws for minors are categorized to make it easier for employers to follow certain rules.

Age Category

State Requirements

14 and 15 years old

Work hours (school sessions)
- No more than 18 hours per week
- No more than 3 hours per day
- Not allowed to work during school hours

Work hours (school break)
- Can only work up to 44 hours per week if they work in workshops, mills, canneries, or factories
- No more than 40 hours per week if they work elsewhere
- Maximum duty of 8 hours per day

16 and 17 years old

Work hours (school sessions)
- No more than 18 hours per week
- No more than 3 hours per day
- Not allowed to work when school is in session

Work hours (school break)
- No stated maximum hours per week
- Allowed to work only 8 hours per day

If an employer fails to follow any of the rules given by the state about child labor laws, they will be charged with civil or criminal penalties, depending on the violation they committed. These penalties can include monetary fines, criminal charges, or warnings. 

Is Mississippi an At-Will Employment State?

Yes, Mississippi has been an at-will employment state since 1858. This means that an employer in the state can fire an employee for no reason as long as the reason for doing so is not related to workplace discrimination. 

With this law, it might be difficult for employees to have job security. As such, the U.S. Congress enacted various federal laws to protect workers from wrongful termination. The exceptions were first released to the public in 1993 during the case of McArn v. Allied Bruce-Terminix Company, Inc., which is now called the McArn exception. 

In this particular case, McArn was removed from the company after refusing to take part in illegal, fraudulent, and deceptive actions against their clients and for reporting the same acts. With the McArn exception, employees will now be protected from being wrongfully terminated at work due to retaliation.

What Qualifies as Wrongful Termination in Mississippi?

Due to Mississippi being an at-will employment state, employers can sometimes wrongfully fire an employee, which can eventually lead to a lawsuit. Both employers and workers should understand each other's rights, along with the laws that govern employment and labor in Mississippi. 

There are no anti-discrimination laws in Mississippi; thus, federal laws regarding discrimination will be applied. In accordance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers in the U.S., particularly in Mississippi, are prohibited from firing an employee due to their religion, gender, race, or disability. Take note that this law only applies to businesses with 15 or more employees.

It is also considered wrongful termination if the employer breaches the employment contract by firing the worker before their designated time at the company ends. 

Other situations where the termination is wrongful are when the employee was fired due to retaliation or for reporting an act in the company that violates public policy.

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

If your employer in Mississippi wrongfully terminates you, you have the right to report them so you can get compensated for losing your job. You have two options to do this, depending on the reason for your termination.

If you are fired due to discrimination, you can file a labor lawsuit against your employer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 180 days from the day you were removed from the company. To do this, you can find the nearest EEOC in your area by going to the Field Office List and Jurisdiction Map or by dialing 1-800-669-4000.

However, if you are terminated due to other illegal reasons stated in the section above, you can contact an experienced lawyer near you to help you understand your rights to file a claim. These lawyers will also review your employment contract and the nature of your termination to determine the right course of action.

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

The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful termination lawsuit in Mississippi depends on the nature of the employee’s termination.

Claim Type

Statute of Limitations

Discrimination Claims

180 days to file a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Contractual Claims

6 years for breached written contracts, 3 years for oral contracts

Tort Claims

3 years if the termination is related to tort or personal injury claims, such as the employer violating the state’s public policies and inflicting emotional distress on the employee 

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

Filing a wrongful termination lawsuit in Mississippi costs between $6,000 and $100,000, depending on how long the case progresses and the nature of the termination. Most employers in Mississippi tend to resolve cases before they reach the court or the jury since these claims can potentially result in settlement amounts ranging from $90,000 to $400,000. 

Moreover, the jury will be basing this amount on various factors related to the claim, such as the employee’s emotional distress, medical bills, lost employment benefits and wages, job search costs, and the reason they were terminated from the job.

Resources for Employees in Mississippi

Despite Mississippi’s lack of laws protecting employees against discrimination and wrongful termination, the state has various organizations designed to offer legal assistance to its workers. The resources below will provide you with links to the forms and documentation you need for your claim, as well as assistance in filing a lawsuit.

MSLegalServices.org

MSLegalServices.org provides the residents of Mississippi with free civil legal services, particularly those who are senior citizens and those belonging to low-income groups. It provides all the necessary information for legal aid programs in the state, along with the contact information of these organizations and how an employee can be eligible for the program. For employees and individuals facing legal problems, MSLegalServices.org also provides them with access to the web and legal documents needed to help with their legal issues.

Mississippi Center for Legal Services

The Mississippi Center for Legal Services offers free legal assistance to low-income residents of the state. The center was established in 2004 and is a combination of five legal aid programs, such as Southeast Mississippi Legal Services, Central Mississippi Legal Services, East Mississippi Legal Services, South Mississippi Legal Services, and Southwest Mississippi Legal Services. Its services include providing support for families facing legal issues like unemployment compensation, bankruptcy, elder law issues, evictions, and Social Security disability. 

Mission First - Legal Aid

Mission First’s Legal Aid office offers legal assistance in Mississippi. Its solutions include government benefit programs for employees, housing, family law, and creditor-debtor issues.  The office is run by volunteer attorneys and law students.

American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi

The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi is dedicated to working daily with communities, courts, and legislatures to defend the personal freedoms and individual rights of the people in the state as guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Since its establishment in 1920, the ACLU of Mississippi has represented people in numerous court cases and launched several campaigns in support of the people in Mississippi.

Mississippi Center for Justice

Established in 2003, the Mississippi Center for Justice caters to low-income residents of the state and those who belong to communities of color. It helps people maintain employment, obtain affordable housing, receive education, and protect their right to privacy. The Mississippi Center of Justice has also organized a regional pro bono response for legal issues in the area and has facilitated the development of a strategy to eliminate poverty across the Deep South.

Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights

The Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights has been serving low-wage workers in the state for over 25 years. It focuses on defending workers’ rights by representing them in state and federal courts and educating them on their rights through the Fannie Lou Hamer Emerging Leaders Program. It has also documented the living experiences of low-income families to show their lack of access to affordable healthcare. 

The Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights has also worked on a workplace environmental justice campaign, aiming to seek education for employees and their family members.

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