- You are protected against discrimination and harassment through the entire employment process, from hiring to firing.
- OSHA demands that employers in every state keep their workplaces safe and free of known hazards.
- Employers are required to pay their employees the highest applicable minimum wage, whether it is set by federal, state or local law.
- There are no federal or Louisiana laws that obligate employers to offer paid leave benefits (vacation, sick leave or PTO), although some states do have laws making paid leave mandatory.
- Generally, employees in Louisiana are classified as “at will,” meaning they may resign or be terminated for any cause that is not discriminatory or retaliatory.
- If you were not terminated for misconduct, or resigned voluntarily, you could be eligible for unemployment benefits.
If you are an employee in Louisiana, you should familiarize yourself with the rights you have as to your job. Both state and federal laws protect you from discrimination, ensure you are paid a minimum wage and are able to take time off from work and ensure you work in a safe environment.
The following article is a brief overview of Louisiana employment law.
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. Other federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of age if the employee is over forty, genetic information or disability. Any employer with more than 15 employees is subject to these laws. However, age discrimination requires and employer to have at least 20 employees.
You are protected against discrimination and harassment through the entire employment process, from hiring to firing. This includes job listings, hiring decisions, promotions, compensation, disciplinary actions, layoffs and termination. To learn more about federal laws that prohibit employee discrimination, visit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Louisiana law is very similar to federal law, prohibiting discrimination based on all the above characteristics, as well as sickle cell trait. Also, the laws apply to employers with 20 employees. The Louisiana Commission on Human Rights enforces all state anti-discrimination legislation.
The above described federal and Louisiana state law also forbids harassment in the workplace. Harassment can be defined as unwelcome conduct based on the victim’s protected status, and must be subjectively abusive to the person affected and objectively severe and pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would find hostile or abusive. Harassment can be based on any of the listed protected traits, but the most recognizable is sexual harassment.
If an employee lodges a complaint of discrimination or harassment in the workplace, the law also protects you from retaliation from your employer.
Workplace Safety and Injuries
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) demands that employers in every state, including Louisiana, keep their workplaces safe and free of known hazards. This includes providing safe and healthy working conditions, as well as up to date training and safety equipment.
If an employee believes that their work environment is not safe, they have the right to request an OSHA inspection. It is also illegal for an employer to perform any retaliation against an employee that makes such a request or any other complaint due to hazards in their working environment.
Most employers in Louisiana are required to carry Workers’ Compensation insurance to cover employees who are injured on the job. Workers’ compensation can pay for a certain percentage of your wages, all necessary medical treatment and expenses and provide other benefits such as rehabilitation.
Wage and Hour Law
The Fair Labor and Standards Act is the federal law that governs pay standards in every state, including minimum wage, overtime pay and other wage and hour rules. Employers are required to pay their employees the highest applicable minimum wage, whether it is set by federal, state or local law. Louisiana has no state minimum wage, so all employees are paid the current federal minimum wage — $7.25.
If you are an employee who earns tips, your employer is allowed to pay you a lower minimum hourly wage. However, your hourly wage, when added with your tips, must still equal minimum wage. In Louisiana, this can be as low as $2.13 per hour, as long as this amount plus your total tips would still equal the federal minimum wage per hour.
There is also no Louisiana-specific overtime law. Much like minimum wage, we follow the federal law which states that employees must be paid overtime—time and a half—for each hour worked over the first 40 hours per week. There are exceptions to the overtime rule for some employees, such as being a salaried manager as defined by the law. This would make you an exempt employee and not entitled to receive overtime pay. You can learn more from the Wage and Hour Division of the federal Department of Labor.
Vacation and Time Off
A good deal of employers offer their employees paid leave benefits such as vacation, sick leave or paid time off (PTO). There are no federal or Louisiana laws that obligate employers to do this, although some states do have laws making paid leave mandatory.
But, there are some instances in which employers are required to give their employees paid leave. These include:
- Family and medical leave — The federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) obligates employers with 50 employees or more to give qualifying employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off per year for welcoming a new child, illness or caregiving. Your group health benefits must continue while you are on FMLA leave. You also have the right to be reinstated when you return from leave. Louisiana law allows employees who experience disability due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, the right to time off. Employers with 25 or more employees must let employees take up to six weeks off for normal pregnancy and childbirth and up to four months off for more disabling pregnancies
- School activities leave — Louisiana employers must give employees at least 16 hours of unpaid time off per year to participate in or observe a child’s school activities and conferences, if they can’t be rescheduled to a time outside of work hours.
- Military leave — The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) obligates employers to allow employees to take time off from work for federal or state military service or duty. Employees must be reinstated when they return from military leave. Louisiana law also extends similar rights to employees who are called to active state duty or training.
- Military family leave — Under the FMLA, eligible employees may take up to 26 weeks off in a year to care for a family member who was seriously injured or disabled on military duty.
- Jury duty — Louisiana employers must also allow employees to take time off work for jury service. Employers must pay for one day of jury duty for regular employees.
Generally, employees in Louisiana are classified as “at will” unless they have an employment agreement that states otherwise. At will employees may resign or be terminated for any cause that is not discriminatory or retaliatory.
Unemployment and Insurance
If you were not terminated for misconduct, or resigned voluntarily, you could be eligible for unemployment benefits. To be eligible, you must have earned at least $1,200 in one year prior to your unemployment. Then, you will receive a percentage of your wages, up to $247 per week, for 26 weeks. To learn more about unemployment benefits or to file a claim online, visit the Louisiana Workforce Commission.
A federal law known as the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA, may allow you to continue receiving health benefits through your employer after your employment is terminated. You will be responsible for the full premium, including any amount your employer was paying as an employee benefit, plus administrative costs. You may continue your health benefits for up to 18 months, while your spouse and/or other dependents may continue their health benefit for 18 to 36 months.
If you believe that your rights as an employee have been abused or violated by your employer, please contact our office so that we can assist you.