Idaho Wrongful Termination Laws

Have you recently lost your job? If so, you might be wondering whether you have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit. In Idaho, as in other states, employees work at will. This means an employee can generally be fired at any time and for any reason, or for no reason at all.

But there are some exceptions to the at-will rule. If your Idaho employer fires you for discriminatory reasons, in violation of an employment contract, or in retaliation for exercising your rights, for example, you may have a legal claim against your employer for wrongful termination.

Every state’s laws on wrongful termination are different. This article covers some of the common legal grounds you might have for suing your employer in Idaho for wrongful termination. But it’s not a comprehensive list of Idaho employment rights, which can change as courts issue new rulings and legislators pass or modify laws. To find out the full extent of your claims, speak to an experienced Idaho employment lawyer. To learn more about Idaho employment law, contact the Idaho Department of Labor.

Discriminatory Firing

Under federal law, it is illegal for an employer to fire an employee based on a protected characteristic. Federal law prohibits employers from firing employees based on race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, age (if the employee is at least 40), disability, citizenship status, or genetic information. However, only employers with a minimum number of employees must comply with these laws. Most types of discrimination are prohibited once an employer has at least 15 employees; the minimum is 20 employees for age discrimination and four employees for discrimination based on citizenship status.

Idaho law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, age (40 or over), and disability. In Idaho, employers must comply with these laws if they have five or more employees.

These laws also make it illegal for an employer to retaliate against you for asserting your rights. For example, if you complain to your company’s HR department that you believe you were passed over for promotion because of your age, your employer may not discipline or fire you for your complaint. Likewise, your employer cannot fire you for participating in an investigation of a discrimination complaint (no matter who made the complaint), testifying in court, or making other efforts to stop discriminatory practices.

Before filing a discrimination or retaliation lawsuit, you must file a complaint with the appropriate government agency. In Idaho, state discrimination laws are enforced by the Idaho Commission on Human Rights. In many cases, state fair employment practices agencies will also record your complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency that enforces federal antidiscrimination laws. However, you should check to make sure. If not, you may also have to file a complaint with the EEOC; you can find contact information for the nearest office at the EEOC’s Field Offices page.

Breach of Contract

If you have an employment contract promising you job security, you may not be an at-will employee. In Idaho, an employment contract may be written, oral, or implied. In the first two types of contracts, your employer makes oral or written promises not to fire you for a certain period of time without good cause. In an implied contract, your employer acts in a way that creates a reasonable expectation that you would continue to be employed. For example, if your employee handbook says that employees won't be fired unless certain disciplinary steps are followed, that may create an implied contract. If you have an employment contract, and your employer fires you without good cause, you have a legal claim for breach of contract.

Wage and Hour Issues

In Idaho, employees are entitled to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Idaho does not have any overtime laws. However, under federal law, employees who work more than 40 hours a week are eligible for overtime pay. Although some states require employers to provide meal or rest breaks, Idaho is not one of them. However, if employers choose to offer meal or rest breaks of 20 minutes or less, they must pay employees for this time. It is illegal for Idaho employers to fire employees for filing wage claims or for testifying in wage proceedings.

Time Off Work

State and federal laws give employees the right to take time off work for certain civic obligations and personal responsibilities. Employers may not discipline or fire workers for exercising these rights. In Idaho, these rights include:

  • Military leave. Under federal law, employees have the right to take up to five years of leave to serve in the military, with the right to be reinstated when they return to work. (This law also prohibits discrimination against employees based on their military service, protects employees from discharge without good cause for up to one year after they return from military duty, and provides other protections; see Nolo’s article Taking Military Leave for more information.) Idaho law provides that members of the Idaho National Guard (or the national guard of another state) who are ordered to active duty by their state's governor may take up to one year of unpaid leave and are entitled to reinstatement. Once reinstated, an employee may not be fired without cause for one year. Members of the National Guard and U.S. military reserves also have the right to take up to 15 days’ leave per year for training, under Idaho law.
  • Jury duty. Employees are entitled to take unpaid leave for jury duty. Employers who fire or penalize an employee for jury service are subject to criminal penalties and special damages in a wrongful termination lawsuit.
  • Family and medical leave. While Idaho doesn't have its own family and medical leave law, Idaho employees are protected by the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks off, unpaid, every year for a serious health condition, to care for a family member with a serious health condition, to care for a new child, or to handle certain practical matters arising out of a family member’s military service. Employees can take up to 26 weeks off in a single year to care for a family member who is seriously injured while serving in the military. Employees who take FMLA leave must be reinstated to the same position once their leave is over. For more information, see Family and Medical Leave in Idaho.

Other State Claims

  • Workers' compensation. Employers may not fire employees for filing workers' compensation claims or otherwise exercising their rights under workers' comp laws.
  • Public policy. Employers are prohibited from firing employees who refuse to engage in activity that is illegal or in violation of public policy.
  • Whistleblowing. Employers cannot fire employees for reporting illegal activity to their employers or to a government agency.

What to Do Next

If you think you were fired illegally, talk to an Idaho employment lawyer. A lawyer can help you sort through the facts and assess the strength of your claims. A lawyer can also inform you of other state or local claims that you may have in addition to those listed above. Whether you want to try to get your job back, negotiate a severance package, or sue your employer in court, a lawyer can walk you through your options and help you decide on how best to proceed.

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