New Hampshire Labor Law

1. Introduction

The State of New Hampshire, located in the Northeastern region of the United States, is known for its robust legal framework which governs employment practices within its borders. This legal framework sets forth specific provisions that employers must adhere to regarding minimum wage, overtime, leave policies, termination, unemployment rights, and workplace safety. Understanding how these laws function is crucial for both employees and employers in ensuring a fair and safe working environment. This comprehensive article aims to provide insight into New Hampshire's state laws on various employment-related matters.

2. Minimum Wage Laws

In New Hampshire, the minimum wage laws are designed to ensure that workers receive fair compensation for the hours they work. As of the last update, New Hampshire does not have its own state-specific minimum wage and thus defaults to the federal minimum wage established by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Employers in New Hampshire are required to adhere to this rate unless local ordinances establish a higher minimum wage.

However, there are some exceptions to this minimum wage rule in specific circumstances that include:

  • Tipped employees: Employers can pay tipped employees a lower direct cash wage, as long as the combination of tips and the direct cash wage equals at least the federal minimum wage.
  • Students and trainees: Certain full-time students and trainees may be paid 85% of the minimum wage for up to 20 hours of work per week at certain approved institutions.
  • Youth minimum wage: Employers are allowed to pay employees under the age of 20 a training wage of $4.25 per hour during their first 90 consecutive calendar days of employment.

It is important for employers and employees alike to stay informed about changes to federal or state minimum wage laws, as these can be subject to legislative updates or ballot measures that could impact wage rates in New Hampshire.

Additionally, municipalities within New Hampshire could potentially enact minimum wage laws that exceed the federal minimum wage for workers in their jurisdictions in the future, given the current absence of a state-specific minimum wage law.

3. Overtime Regulations

Overtime regulations in New Hampshire are governed by both state and federal laws. Under these laws, employers in New Hampshire are required to pay employees overtime at a rate of one and one-half times the employee's regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek. This is consistent with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which sets the standard for overtime compensation.

The key aspects of New Hampshire's overtime regulations are as follows:

  • Overtime pay is due for any hours worked beyond the standard 40-hour workweek.
  • There are exemptions for certain types of employees, such as executives, administrative and professional employees, and outside salespeople who meet specific criteria, as defined by the FLSA.
  • Overtime calculations must include all bonuses, shift differentials, and other incentives when determining the regular rate of pay for the purposes of calculating overtime.
  • Employers are not required under New Hampshire state law to pay overtime for work on weekends or holidays unless those hours contribute to an employee working more than 40 hours in a given workweek.
  • Some employers may choose to offer additional overtime at a higher rate for work completed on holidays or during special events, but this is not mandated by state law and typically falls under company policy.

It is crucial for both employers and employees to understand these regulations to ensure proper compensation for overtime hours worked. Employers must maintain accurate records of hours worked to comply with overtime pay requirements and to avoid potential disputes or penalties associated with non-compliance.

Any violations of overtime regulations can lead to legal action against the employer, including payment of back wages owed, damages, and fines. Employees who believe they have been denied proper overtime pay are encouraged to seek advice from the New Hampshire Department of Labor or consult with an employment law attorney.

Understanding and adhering to overtime regulations is essential for promoting fair labor practices and protecting the rights of workers in New Hampshire.

4. Vacation Leave

In New Hampshire, vacation leave policies are often left to the discretion of the employer. The state does not require employers to provide employees with either paid or unpaid vacation benefits. However, if an employer chooses to offer vacation leave to its employees, certain regulations must be followed regarding the accrual and use of that leave, as well as what happens upon termination of employment.

  • Employers who offer vacation leave typically establish their own policy regarding how much time is earned and at what rate. This information is usually detailed in the employee handbook or employment contract.
  • If an employer has a policy to provide paid vacation, then according to New Hampshire law RSA 275:49, it must be treated like wages. When an employee leaves the job, any accrued, unused vacation time must be paid out at the final paycheck unless otherwise stipulated by a company policy that has been clearly communicated to the employee.
  • An employer can legally establish a "use-it-or-lose-it" policy requiring employees to use their vacation by a certain date or lose it, as long as employees are informed about the policy in advance.
  • Employers may also be able to cap the amount of vacation time an employee can accrue over time, preventing an employee from accruing additional vacation time until they use some of their existing time off. Again, this policy must be clearly communicated before implementation.

It is essential for employees to understand their employer's vacation leave policy, including accrual rates, caps on vacation leave, and any "use-it-or-lose-it" stipulations. Employers should ensure that their policies comply with relevant laws and that these policies are articulated clearly in writing to all employees. While employees in New Hampshire do not have statutory rights to vacation leave, those working for employers with established policies may be entitled to certain benefits based on those employer-specific rules.

Employees who believe their rights regarding vacation pay have been violated can contact the New Hampshire Department of Labor for guidance or speak with an employment attorney familiar with local laws. It's important for both employers and employees to be aware of the details of any vacation policy in place to prevent misunderstandings and potential legal issues.

5. Sick Leave

Unlike some states, New Hampshire does not have a statewide mandate requiring employers to provide employees with paid sick leave. Instead, the provision of sick leave is generally left to the discretion of individual employers. Businesses in New Hampshire may decide whether to offer paid sick leave, and if so, they set their own policies regarding accrual, carryover, and usage of sick time.

  • Employers that choose to offer sick leave must adhere to their established policy or employment contract terms. If there are any changes to the policy, employers are required to notify their employees in advance.
  • When sick leave is provided, it's commonly accrued based on the number of hours an employee works, although some companies may offer a lump sum of sick days at the beginning of each year.
  • In certain circumstances, such as a public health emergency, employees may be entitled to take unpaid leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) if they work for eligible employers and meet specific criteria.
  • While New Hampshire law doesn't specifically protect the use of sick leave, the state's Department of Labor enforces regulations concerning timely and proper payment when sick leave is part of an employer's compensation package.

For employees working in New Hampshire, understanding your employer's sick leave policy is critical, including how many days you are entitled to, the process of accruing additional sick leave, and any notice requirements when needing to use the leave.

It is also important for employees to be aware that while New Hampshire law does not currently mandate sick leave, certain localities or industries may establish their own standards or collective bargaining agreements that could affect sick leave benefits.

Employees who feel their rights regarding sick leave have been violated should contact the New Hampshire Department of Labor for assistance or seek legal advice. Employers should ensure that their sick leave policies comply with all applicable laws and agreements and that these policies are clearly communicated to ensure both compliance and transparency.

6. Holiday Leave

In New Hampshire, holiday leave is not mandated by state law. Employers are not required to provide either paid or unpaid holiday leave. Like vacation and sick leave, the provision of holiday leave is typically a matter of company policy. Employers who choose to offer holiday leave have considerable discretion in determining which holidays to observe and whether the time off will be paid or unpaid.

  • Many employers recognize standard federal holidays and may offer paid time off on those days, but this is entirely at the employer's discretion.
  • Some companies may remain open during holidays and offer employees additional pay or incentives to work on these days (often referred to as holiday pay), but such arrangements are not required by state law.
  • When an employer does provide paid holiday leave, it often does not count towards the calculation of overtime unless actual hours worked during the week exceed 40 hours.
  • Employers that do offer holiday leave typically outline the details of the benefit in an employee handbook or through a formal employment contract.
  • If an employer provides paid holidays, it is not required by New Hampshire law to pay out unused holiday leave upon termination of employment, unlike the requirements for paid vacation leave.

It is important for employees in New Hampshire to familiarize themselves with their employer’s specific holiday leave policy, including which holidays are observed and whether they are paid or unpaid. Clear communication from employers about the holiday leave policy can help avoid confusion and ensure that both parties have a shared understanding of the terms.

While there is no legal obligation for employers to offer holiday leave in New Hampshire, many employers do so as part of their efforts to create a competitive benefits package and to observe national traditions.

If disputes arise regarding holiday leave, employees may seek to address these issues directly with their employer or through any internal dispute resolution mechanisms available at their workplace. As always, consulting with an employment lawyer can also provide guidance tailored to an individual's specific situation.

7. Breaks

New Hampshire law does not require employers to give breaks to workers eighteen (18) years old or older. However, if an employer chooses to provide a break and it lasts less than twenty (20) minutes, it must be paid. This reflects the standards set by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). For meal periods, typically defined as breaks lasting thirty (30) minutes or longer where the employee is relieved of all duties, compensation is not required as long as the employee is completely free from work during this time.

  • Breaks of less than 20 minutes must generally be paid.
  • Meal periods of 30 minutes or more can be unpaid if the employee is fully relieved from duty.
  • If the employee is required to perform any tasks during a meal period, they must be paid for that time.

For minors under the age of eighteen (18), state law mandates a thirty (30) minute break for every five (5) consecutive hours worked. Employers must comply with these provisions to ensure that young workers have adequate time to rest and eat a meal during their shift.

  • Minors must receive a 30-minute break if they work more than 5 consecutive hours.

While New Hampshire’s break laws are limited, it's not uncommon for employers to offer breaks as part of their company policy. This is often done to ensure a healthier and more productive working environment. Additionally, industry-specific regulations and collective bargaining agreements can sometimes stipulate more generous break times which employers in those industries would need to follow.

  • Employers often voluntarily establish more generous break policies.
  • Collective bargaining agreements may provide for additional break rights.

Should an employee have a dispute regarding breaks at work, they should first refer to their company's written policies and any relevant collective bargaining agreement provisions. In case of further concerns, or if there appears to be a violation of state regulations, particularly for minor employees, contacting the New Hampshire Department of Labor would be the next course of action.

Understanding one's right to breaks in the workplace is important for both employers and employees to ensure compliance with the law and to maintain a work environment that supports the well-being and productivity of all staff members.

8. Employment Termination Laws

In New Hampshire, employment relationships are generally considered to be "at-will," meaning that either the employer or the employee may end the employment relationship at any time, with or without cause, and with or without notice. Despite this at-will framework, there are several state laws and regulations that govern the termination process to ensure fair practices and compliance with certain legal standards.

  • Notice of Termination: New Hampshire law does not require employers to provide notice when terminating an employee. Similarly, employees are not legally required to give notice when resigning from a position, although providing notice is often considered a professional courtesy.
  • Final Paycheck: Under New Hampshire RSA 275:44, employers are required to pay all final wages to terminating employees within 72 hours of the termination. If an employee quits without notice, the employer must pay all wages due by the next regular payday or within 72 hours, whichever is later.
  • Mass Layoffs: The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act) is a federal law that applies in New Hampshire. It requires employers with 100 or more employees to provide 60 days' notice of plant closings or mass layoffs affecting 50 or more employees at a single site of employment.
  • Discrimination and Retaliation: While employers may terminate employees for any reason or no reason under the at-will doctrine, they cannot terminate employment for an illegal reason. This includes termination based on discrimination, retaliation for engaging in protected activities (such as filing a discrimination claim or whistleblowing), or violation of public policy (such as refusing to engage in illegal activities).
  • Unemployment Benefits: Employees who are terminated may be eligible for unemployment benefits provided they meet certain criteria, such as being terminated through no fault of their own. The New Hampshire Employment Security office manages claims and determines eligibility for unemployment benefits.
  • Severance Pay: New Hampshire law does not require employers to offer severance pay upon termination, unless it is stipulated in an employment contract or company policy. If an employer has agreed to provide severance pay, it must comply with the terms of that agreement.
  • Cobra Continuation Coverage: Under federal law, and applicable to New Hampshire employers, terminated employees may have the right to continue their health insurance coverage for a limited period after termination, at their own expense, through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).
  • Employee Misconduct: Employers are able to contest unemployment benefits if the termination was due to misconduct connected with the work, based on specific definitions provided by New Hampshire law.

Employers are encouraged to document all terminations clearly and retain records that support the reasoning behind the decision to terminate an employee. This documentation can be crucial in defending against wrongful termination or discrimination claims. Additionally, having a well-defined termination procedure can help ensure consistency and fairness in the handling of such matters.

Employees facing termination are advised to understand their rights, including their right to a final paycheck in a timely manner, potential eligibility for unemployment benefits, and protection against discriminatory or retaliatory terminations. When in doubt, consulting with an employment attorney or the New Hampshire Department of Labor can provide clarity on individual circumstances and rights under New Hampshire law.

9. Unemployment Rights

In the state of New Hampshire, unemployment benefits are designed to provide temporary financial assistance to workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own and meet the state's eligibility requirements. The New Hampshire Employment Security (NHES) is the state agency responsible for administering unemployment benefits and ensuring that claimants receive the rights to which they are entitled.

Individuals seeking unemployment benefits in New Hampshire must have earned a minimum amount in wages, as determined by the state's guidelines, during the base period, which is typically the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters of an individual’s employment record prior to filing a claim.

The following points outline key aspects of unemployment rights in New Hampshire:

  • Eligibility Requirements: To be eligible for unemployment benefits, claimants must be able to work, available for work, and actively seeking employment each week that they file a claim.
  • Benefit Duration and Amounts: The duration and amount of unemployment benefits that a claimant can receive depend on their earnings during the base period. The maximum duration is generally 26 weeks, but this can change depending on the state's unemployment rate and special extensions enacted during economic downturns.
  • Weekly Certification: Claimants are required to file weekly certifications to verify that they are still unemployed and meet the eligibility requirements for that week.
  • Work Search Requirements: While collecting benefits, claimants are typically required to demonstrate that they are making a good-faith effort to find new employment, which may include making a certain number of job contacts per week.
  • Disqualification: An individual may be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits for reasons such as voluntary quitting without good cause, being discharged for misconduct related to the job, or refusing suitable work without good cause.
  • Appeals: If a claimant disagrees with a decision regarding their unemployment benefits, they have the right to appeal the decision. The appeals process includes a hearing before an appeals tribunal, and further appeals can be made to the Unemployment Compensation Appeals Board and ultimately the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
  • Fraud: Claimants must accurately report their work and earnings when filing for benefits. Deliberate misrepresentation to receive benefits can lead to severe penalties, including repayment of fraudulently obtained benefits, additional fines, and criminal prosecution.
  • Training and Assistance: The NHES provides various services to assist unemployed individuals in finding new employment, including job search assistance, training programs, and career counseling.
  • Unemployment Insurance Tax: Employers fund the unemployment insurance program through state and federal unemployment taxes. No deductions are made from employees' paychecks for this purpose in New Hampshire.

These unemployment rights are subject to change, and it is important for both employers and employees to stay informed about current regulations. The New Hampshire Employment Security website is a valuable resource for the most up-to-date information on unemployment benefits and related services in the state.

10. Workplace Safety

Workplace safety in New Hampshire is governed by a combination of state and federal regulations designed to ensure that workers have safe and healthy environments in which to perform their duties. The primary federal agency responsible for worker safety is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which sets and enforces standards, and provides training, outreach, education, and assistance.

The state of New Hampshire has adopted several federal OSHA standards but does not have a state-run safety and health program. Therefore, workplace safety is largely governed by federal OSHA standards. Employers in New Hampshire are required by these standards to provide work environments free from recognized hazards and to comply with rules pertaining to specific hazards.

Here are key aspects of workplace safety regulations in New Hampshire:

  • Employer Responsibilities: All employers must furnish a place of employment free from recognized hazards that could cause death or serious physical harm. They must also comply with the occupational safety and health standards issued under OSHA.
  • Right to Know: New Hampshire has its own 'Right to Know Law'—RSA 277-A—which requires businesses to educate employees about the hazardous substances they may be exposed to at work. Employers must label all containers holding toxic substances, provide Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for hazardous chemicals, and train employees on how to safely handle these substances.
  • Reporting and Recordkeeping: Employers must report work-related fatalities within 8 hours and hospitalizations, amputations, or losses of an eye within 24 hours. Additionally, employers must also keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses as specified by OSHA’s recordkeeping standards.
  • Inspections and Penalties: Federal OSHA inspectors conduct onsite inspections in response to reported complaints, accidents, or high-hazard conditions. Violations of safety regulations can lead to significant financial penalties.
  • Worker Training: Employers are responsible for providing training to workers on various hazards, and OSHA standards require training on specific topics, depending on the job environment.
  • Workers' Compensation: Employers in New Hampshire are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover employees in case of a work-related injury or illness. This insurance provides medical benefits and wage replacement to employees who are injured on the job.
  • Whistleblower Protections: Workers are protected under whistleblower provisions and cannot be retaliated against for exercising their rights under safety and health regulations, including raising concerns about workplace conditions or reporting injuries.

These workplace safety laws help ensure that employers take proactive steps to minimize risks and protect their employees. Adherence to these regulations is not only a legal requirement but also a critical component of maintaining a productive and secure working environment.