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Three Nebraska food and meat packing companies became embroiled in a child labor scandal in 2022. U.S. Department of Labor investigators found that children ages 13 to 17 worked in dangerous conditions at JBS Foods, Greater Omaha Packing Co. Inc., and Gibbon Packing Co. 

The company that hired the minors, Packers Sanitation Services Inc., paid $1.5 million in civil fines for violating child labor laws. According to the investigation, the children worked with harmful chemicals and cleaned razor-sharp meat processing equipment at the facilities. They were also allowed to work overnight shifts in violation of work limits for minors.

This case involved violations of both labor and employment laws. While labor laws address the collective rights of workers, such as minors, to shield them from abuse or victimization, employment laws protect the interests of individual employees. These include the rights of a worker under their employment contract, such as wages, limitations to work hours, leave, and equal treatment. 

These topics will be covered in this article. Wrongful termination is also discussed to guide employees through pursuing legal action against employers who may have infringed on their rights against unfair dismissal. 

Nebraska Wage and Hour Laws

Minimum Wage Laws

The minimum wage in Nebraska is $10.50 per hour. It will increase in 2024 and the year after that until it reaches $15 per hour by 2026. These minimum wage adjustments apply only to regular employees. 

For tipped workers, like waiters, waitresses, and bellhops, the minimum hourly wage is $2.13. This wage rate and the tips that the worker gets must add up to at least $10.50 per hour; otherwise, the employer is required to pay for the difference.

Rest and Lunch Break Laws

Nebraska employers are not required by law to provide breaks, whether paid or unpaid, to their employees. Exceptions are mechanical establishments, assembly plants, and workshops, which must allow a 30-minute lunch break every eight-hour work shift. While businesses in other sectors do not have the same requirement, they may provide their workers with lunch breaks at their own discretion.

Overtime Laws

Nebraska applies the Fair Labor Standards Act requirements for overtime pay. This means employees are entitled to overtime pay not less than 1.5 times their regular hourly rate for every hour worked in excess of the 40-hour work week.  

Thus, workers receiving an hourly wage of $10.50 are entitled to overtime pay of $15.75 per hour. Certain types of employees, however, are not required to be paid overtime in Nebraska. These employees include the following:

  • Administrative personnel;

  • Executives;

  • Professionals like certified teachers, artists, and skilled computer experts;

  • Employees working in an outside sales position;

  • Volunteers in charitable, religious, educational, and nonprofit organizations.

Workplace Leave Laws in Nebraska

Required Leaves

  • Jury Duty Leave: Nebraska employers must provide paid leave to employees fulfilling their jury duties. They are prohibited from removing the employee’s vacation or sick leave to prevent them from attending the jury or giving them any punishment for doing so. If the employer still insists on punishing the employee, they will be charged with a Class IV misdemeanor.

  • Voting Leave: Nebraska employers are required to provide paid time off to employees who will be voting. This time off, however, is granted only if the employee makes a request before Election Day. In addition, the employee should make clear to the employer what time they are taking leave from work.

  • Family and Medical Leave: This is also known as FMLA Leave, which is unpaid time off from work. It allows the employee to take sick leave, take care of family members who are ill, or adopt a child. Under this law, workers are entitled to 12 weeks of leave if they have worked for the company for 12 months or have a record of at least 1,250 hours of service.

  • Military Leave: Employees in Nebraska who are members of the Air Force Reserve, National Guard, Army Reserve, and Coast Guard Reserve must be permitted to take a leave from work without losing their pay or their job. However, the time off and pay a worker is entitled to depend on their military classification, as shown in the following table:


Leave Requirements

Employees who are members of the Nebraska National Guard 

These workers need to participate in 15-day encampments, drills, active duty, and drills assigned by the authority.

They will receive full pay from the workplace along with their military pay.

Employees leaving their position at work to undergo up to four years of military service

These employees will receive their full pay only for the first 15 days of their leave from work.

If they are to be removed from training for reasons like honorable conditions, they should be reinstated to their previous job with benefits like vacation, pay, status, and seniority. 

They will only get this benefit if they reapply to their previous company within 30 days after they were released from duty.

Employees who need to undergo active duty due to emergency situations, as ordered by the Governor

These workers will receive both their employment and military pay. But if their work salary is higher than the one they receive during their duty, the state will increase their military pay to match their job income.

Non-required Leaves

While the preceding section talks about mandatory leaves, this one lists the non-required leaves from work in Nebraska. The state does not require these times off from work, but employers have the option to grant these leaves to their employees as part of their work benefits. These non-mandatory leaves include:

  • Vacation leave;

  • Sick leave;

  • Holiday leave;

  • Bereavement leave.

Nebraska Child Labor Laws

Employment of minors is regulated in Nebraska. Before a person under 16 can work in the state, they must obtain an employment certificate through their school administrator, who will determine if the minor fits the criteria for working.

State law restricts the work hours of minors. The following table shows the permitted work hours set by Nebraska and those set by the U.S. Department of Labor.



Between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. for minors 14-16; until 8 p.m. only for children under 14.

Maximum of eight hours per day, 40 hours per week 

Between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. 

Maximum of three hours if school is in session; eight hours if school is not in session

Maximum of 18 hours if school is in session; 40 hours if school is not in session

Both state and federal laws prohibit employing children in work that puts them in physical danger. For a comprehensive list of child labor laws on hazardous occupations, you can visit the Department of Education website. 

Poster Requirement

In Nebraska, workplaces are required to have certain posters about the labor laws of the state. These posters include:

  • Nebraska Minimum Wage;

  • Unemployment Insurance Advisement of Benefit Rights;

  • Nebraska’s Federal All-In-One Poster;

  • Three-In-One Labor Poster;

  • Discrimination in Employment, Housing, and Public Accommodations Is Prohibited by State Law.

In addition to these posters, there are optional ones that are important to employees. These include posters about:

  • Sexual Harassment in Employment;

  • Employment and Pregnancy Discrimination.

Is Nebraska an At-Will Employment State?

Yes, Nebraska is an at-will employment state, which means that an employee can be fired by their employer for no reason. The worker can also terminate their contract at any time without suffering any consequences for doing so. However, if someone is fired because of their religion, gender, race, nationality, marital status, or age, this is considered wrongful termination due to discrimination. Other types of wrongful termination are discussed in the next section.

What Qualifies as Wrongful Termination in Nebraska?

In addition to discrimination, the following situations that lead to an employee’s termination are deemed unlawful in Nebraska:

  • Hostile Work Environment: This is when an employee is forced to resign because of a hostile work environment. They may have regularly heard offensive jokes, suffered physical assaults or insults, or been exposed to other conduct deemed outrageous.

  • Workers’ Compensation and Whistleblower Retaliation: If an employer fires an employee for filing a worker’s compensation claim against the company, the termination is considered wrongful. Also deemed wrongful is when an employer terminates an employee for reporting to the authorities any criminal acts by the company and its associates.

  • Breach of Contract: Even though Nebraska is an at-will employment state, some contracts bind employers and their employees. These contracts may contain information about providing the worker with job security; therefore, firing them for no reason will be illegal. If the employer breaches the written or oral agreement, the employee can file a wrongful termination case against them.

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

The procedure for reporting a Nebraska employment and labor case like wrongful termination depends on the circumstances surrounding your dismissal.

If you are removed from duty for discriminatory reasons, you can report this incident to the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission. There are various ways to do this:

  • Online: Fill out the Inquiry Form on the NEOC’s official website. An Intake investigator will receive the form and schedule an interview with you before drafting a charge of discrimination. You will receive the charge by mail, and it is your responsibility to have it notarized and return it to the NEOC before the commission can investigate the charge.

  • Phone: You can call various offices in Nebraska: Omaha at 402-595-2028, Lincoln at 402-471-2024, and Scottsbluff at 308-632-1340. Staff will be available to answer the call and discuss the claim filing process with you. Make sure that you are calling between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

  • In-person: You can visit the main office directly at 1529 K Street, Suite 310, Lincoln, NE 68508-2709.

Reporting to the NEOC is the first thing you need to do before deciding to pursue a federal claim of wrongful termination in court against your employer.

If the reason for your unlawful termination is related to retaliation or breach of contract, you can contact an experienced attorney near you to help you with your case. This lawyer will protect your legal rights throughout the process and fight to obtain the compensation you deserve for your damages.

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

The statute of limitation for Nebraska wrongful termination cases will depend on the type of claim the employee is filing, as shown below:

Contractual Claims

The employee can file a claim within five years for written agreements and four years for oral contracts.

Discrimination Claims

Under federal law, the employee has 180 days to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. However, since state law also prohibits workplace discrimination, the employee has up to 300 days to file a case.

Tort Claims

If the employee suffered from emotional distress or defamation in their workplace and was removed from their job, they can file a tort claim, most commonly known as a personal injury case.

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

Settlement amounts range from $4,000 to $90,000, whereas jury awards can be between $110,000 and $400,000. The disparity is why most wrongful termination cases in Nebraska are settled before they reach the jury. 

Every case is different, though, so there are no guarantees on the amount an employee can receive for a wrongful termination settlement in Nebraska. It mostly depends on how long the claim is resolved, how many parties are involved, and the reasons for termination. 

The court considers several factors when awarding a settlement. Some of these factors are the reason behind the worker’s termination and the financial costs of searching for a new job. The court also takes into account lost wages and, in some cases, the employee’s medical expenses and emotional distress.

Resources for Employees in Nebraska

This section provides you with a list of resources that you can use to help with your Nebraska employment and labor claims. These resources include organizations that work to protect your rights in the workplace and even help you find a new job.

Legal Aid of Nebraska

The Legal Aid of Nebraska has been serving the people of the state for more than 50 years. It has a Worker Rights Program dedicated to providing essential support for migrant workers in Nebraska. This program ensures that agricultural workers receive the wages they are entitled to under the law. It also allows attorneys to travel to regions to educate migrant workers on their rights. This program also has a legal team that will address issues such as discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

Heartlands Workforce Solutions

Heartlands Workforce Solutions is a network of employers, leaders, and individuals in Nebraska. The nonprofit organization connects these people with talent from in-demand industries. It uses its American Job Center to train, educate, and support job seekers from a variety of education levels, ages, skill sets, experiences, and capabilities. Its services are centered around young and adult workers, veterans, and dislocated employees, which are people who lost their jobs due to permanent plant closure or those who left their work to follow their family member who serves in the military.

Nebraska Appleseed

The Nebraska Appleseed has been fighting for justice for residents of the state since 1996. Its advocacy includes issues related to workers’ rights. The organization aims to resolve issues of production pressures and inhumane work speeds for employees in Nebraska. Its goal to address the needs of workers extends to helping them better understand their rights in the workplace. Its website contains information about laws about workplace discrimination, fair payment of wages, workers’ compensation, and unions.

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