Employment Discrimination Basics in Nebraska
The Nebraska Fair Employment Act (NFEA) establishes fair employment practices for all persons employed in the State of Nebraska. The Act ensures that job applicants and employees share certain protections from discrimination and/or bias. It outlines specific “protected classes” that cannot be used as a basis for any sort of adverse workplace decisions. Section 48-1104 of the NFEA outlines Nebraska’s protected classes as follows:
- Marital status
- National Origin
But what exactly does this protect employees from? The NFEA makes it illegal for Nebraska employers to “fail or refuse to hire, discharge, …harass any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment...” based on membership in any of the protected classes listed above. Take the case of Hartley v. Metropolitan Utilities District of Omaha for example. In this case, Hartley had been passed up for a promotion that was later given to a less-qualified male co-worker. She asserted that her and multiple other more qualified female employees had been discriminated against for the position based on their gender. This is a common argument, though frequently unsuccessful for the employee alleging discrimination. Because discrimination cases often involve hearsay evidence, they can be tough to argue. A strong case typically contains concrete evidence (memos, emails, voicemails, etc.) demonstrating some form of discrimination that led to diminished career opportunities for the employee.
Beyond the protected classes listed above, there is one additional group that receives similar employment protections—a group commonly referred to as “whistle blowers.” Under Section 48-1114 of the NFEA, an employer may not discriminate against employees or job applicants based on their previous or current disclosure of unlawful employment practices. Although the term “whistle blower” is not used in the language of NFEA, the Act protects this class just the same. Employers cannot refuse to hire, fire, or otherwise inhibit a person’s career advancement based on their past or current involvement in exposing unlawful employment practices. This includes everything from a person’s direct involvement in reporting a company’s unlawful practices to simply testifying in an unlawful employment case. No matter the persons level of involvement and the company they were/are associated with, this may not be used as a basis for any sort of decision regarding their professional career.
If you or someone you know has been harmed by a violation of the Nebraska Fair Employment Act, it’s important to know how much time is available to file a claim. In Nebraska, one has up to 300 days to file a charge of violation of the NFEA after the occurrence of the alleged unlawful employment practice. This rule applies to all private and non-profit employers with 15 or more employees. When the issue pertains to Equal Pay laws, the company must have 20 or more employees to file a claim and the timeframe to file becomes much longer. In these instances, individuals have up to 4 years to file their complaint. Equal pay claims have a longer statute of limitations due to the greater length of time needed to establish an admissible case. A solid unequal pay case can take years to establish and often requires a concrete comparison of other’s pay in relation to the alleging employee’s. Frequently, a case is established based on the absence of promotions over the years and making a comparison of employees who have received such promotions. This can take a substantial amount of time to establish.
Employment discrimination cases are fraught with personal and professional issues, thus making them that much more difficult to navigate. It is imperative to have quality representation to ensure your rights are looked after and upheld.
If you or a loved one is involved in or believes they could become involved in an employment discrimination claim, contact one of the skillful attorneys at Berry Law.