Workers in New Mexico have rights under both federal and state law when it comes to earning a fair wage, getting paid on time, receiving proper breaks during long shifts, getting paid for overtime work, taking leave to care for oneself or a family member, and fighting back against employment discrimination.
There are many different statutes that may apply when dealing with New Mexico employment laws.
It is important to speak with a New Mexico employment law attorney to learn more about the best way to move forward with your case.
For more information, please contact our Las Cruces employment lawyers.
New Mexico Labor Laws
There are many different types of federal and state labor laws that govern New Mexico employment.
The following are examples of workplace issues eligible for compensation:
- Failure to pay employee for short rest breaks;
- Not giving an employee breastfeeding breaks;
- Failure to pay minimum wage;
- Making improper deductions from an employee’s paycheck;
- Failure to pay overtime;
- Failure to permit an employee to take leave under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), or another applicable law;
- Engaging in employment discrimination in hiring, promotion, firing, or another aspect of employment;
- Failure in taking steps to prevent and manage employment discrimination in the workplace;
- Sexual harassment at work;
- Hostile work environment claims; and
New Mexico Labor Laws Breaks and New Mexico Lunch Break Laws
There is no specific law in New Mexico concerning meal breaks in the workplace.
As such, New Mexico employers must abide by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
The FLSA establishes many rules concerning wage and hour requirements in the workplace. When it comes to taking breaks on the job, employees in New Mexico are not required to receive meal breaks. However, when it comes to New Mexico lunch break laws or meal breaks, it is important for employers and employees alike to understand their rights and obligations.
Lunch breaks or dinner breaks, or as the FLSA calls them, “bona fide meal periods,” typically last for at least 30 minutes. Although an employer in New Mexico is not required to provide a bona fide meal break, if the employer does provide a bona fide meal break then the employee must be free to do whatever she or he wants during that period. The employer does not have to compensate the employee for the meal break, but the employer also may not assign any work tasks during that time.
Short breaks that usually last anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes, like bona fide meal periods, are not required under federal law. However, if an employer does offer an employee a short break, the employer must compensate the employee for that time.
New Mexico also requires employers to provide flexible break times to nursing mothers for breastfeeding. The employer is also required to provide a space for the employee to use a breast pump that is clean, private, and near the employee’s regular work area. A bathroom does not fulfill this requirement.
New Mexico Wage and Hour Laws
There are many different requirements for employers under New Mexico wage and hour laws, and there are many situations in which an employee may be able to file a claim when an employer violates those requirements.
The first requirement is minimum wage. Currently, the New Mexico state minimum wage is $7.50, which is higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25. In many cities in New Mexico, the minimum wage is even higher.
For example, in Albuquerque the minimum wage is set at $8.95 if an employee does not receive health benefits and at $7.95 if an employee does receive health benefits. The 2018 minimum wage is $8.85 in Bernalillo County, $10.84 in Santa Fe, $10.66 in Santa Fe County, and $9.45 in Las Cruces. When state or local minimum wage laws are higher than the federal minimum wage, employers in those places must abide by the state or municipal minimum wage requirements. Failure to pay minimum wage can result in an employee filing a claim.
Even if an employer pays an employee the minimum wage but makes illegal deductions from an employee’s paycheck, the employer may be in violation of wage and hour laws. To be clear, in most cases an employer is not allowed to make deductions from your wages for workplace supplies, uniforms, or other similar items if it brings your hourly wage below the minimum wage. The basic piece of information to remember is this: unless an employer gets your authorization to make deductions, those deductions may be unlawful.
If they fire you, New Mexico employers are also required to send out paychecks in a timely manner and to provide you with your final paycheck within five days.
New Mexico Overtime Laws
Under the FLSA and New Mexico state law, unless an employee is exempt, she or he must be paid overtime wages. Overtime is equal to 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate of pay. If the employee works more than 4o hours a week, they must get wages at the overtime rate.
For example, if an employee is not exempt and works at an hourly wage of $10 per hour, if that employee works 50 hours in one workweek she gets her regular wage for the first 40 hours (40 hours x $10 per hour = $400) plus 1.5 times her regular rate of pay ($10 x 1.5 = $15) for the overtime hours (10 hours x $15 per hour = $150).
New Mexico Leave Laws and Accommodation Requirements
Although employers can offer paid leave to employees, they are not required to provide paid leave. Under many different types of circumstances, however, employers must provide unpaid, job-protected leave to employees.
Both federal and state laws permit employees to request leaves of absence from the workplace. For example:
- Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): The FMLA requires that any employer that has at least 50 employees provide an eligible employee with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave each year for a number of different reasons, such as caring for a newborn child or a newly adopted child, dealing with a serious illness, or caring for a family member who has a serious illness.
- Military leave under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA): Under this federal law, employers must permit employees to take job-protected leave for military duty. Additionally, the employer cannot terminate the employee for up to one year after returning to work unless there is cause for the termination.
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Under the ADA, an employee who has a documented disability may be able to request disability-related leave and/or disability accommodations.
New Mexico law also requires that employers provide unpaid, job-protected leave in many cases for victims (or family members of victims) of domestic violence, for voting, and for jury duty.
New Mexico Employee Rights
Employees have a right to be free from discrimination and harassment in the New Mexico workplace. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the New Mexico Human Rights Act, employers may not discriminate against an employee or potential employee on the basis of the following:
- National origin;
- Physical or mental handicap, or a serious medical condition;
- Spousal affiliation;
- Sexual orientation; and
- Gender identity.
Sex discrimination includes discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, as well as unlawful sexual harassment. Generally speaking, federal and state laws provide similar protections, but New Mexico state law is broader—covering more employees—in certain respects. New Mexico state law expressly prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity when the employer has at least 15 employees.
Under many different employment laws, employers may not retaliate against an employee who exercises his or her rights under federal or state law. Retaliation can take many different forms, from terminating an employee to engaging in abusive behaviors in the workplace.
If you file a claim under federal law, you must file through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
If you file a claim under state law, you must file through the Human Rights Bureau of the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions.
An experienced New Mexico employment discrimination lawyer can help you to determine whether to file a claim under state or federal law and can ensure that you file your claim with the proper agency.
Contact an Employment Law Attorney in New Mexico
If you have questions about your rights or obligations under New Mexico employment law or to learn more about filing a claim, you should speak with an experienced employment law attorney in New Mexico as soon as possible.
At Flores, Tawney & Acosta, P.C., we have years of experience serving employees who have been victims of wage and hour law violations, employment discrimination, retaliation, and other unlawful practices. An advocate at our firm can speak with you today about your options and can get started on your case.
Contact Flores, Tawney & Acosta, P.C. to learn more about the services we provide to employees in New Mexico.