State Law: North Dakota


The Law

The North Dakota Human Rights Act makes it illegal for an employer or labor organization to discriminate against someone on the basis of sex.

An "employee" under the Human Rights Act is defined as, "a person who performs services for an employer, who employs one or more individuals, for compensation, whether in the form of wages, salaries, commission, or otherwise. Employee does not include a person elected to public office in the state or political subdivision by the qualified voters thereof, or a person chosen by the officer to be on the officer’s political staff, or an appointee on the policymaking level or an immediate advisor with respect to the exercise of the constitutional or legal powers of the office. Provided, employee does not include a person subject to the civil service or merit system or civil service laws of the state government, governmental agency, or a political subdivision."

Under North Dakota law, an "employer" means, "a person within the state who employs one or more employees for more than one quarter of the year and a person wherever situated who employs one or more employers whose services are to be partially or wholly performed in the state."

Thus, the North Dakota statute against discrimination in the workplace applies to all employers with one or more employees, while Title VII only applies to employers with 15+ employees.

The Human Rights Act specifically covers employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, marital status, receipt of public assistance, or participation in lawful activity off the employer’s premises outside of regular work hours that is not in direct conflict with the business-related interests of the employer.

Filing A Complaint

The Human Rights Division of the North Dakota Department of Labor investigates complaints filed with it free of charge. Complaints under state law must be filed within 300 days of the date you were discriminated against. You may file a complaint with the Commission by calling (701) 328-2660 or 1-800-582-8032. You may also visit the office, which is located at the State Capitol, 13th Floor, in Bismarck.

To file a complaint of employment discrimination, you must complete an Equal Employment Opportunity Questionnaire and submit it to the Human Rights Division or call the office, and an intake questionnaire will be completed for you over the telephone. If your allegations are covered under the law, a complaint will be drafted for you to sign.

An investigator will be assigned to your case, who will act as a neutral decision-maker to determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe you have been discriminated against and your rights violated.

If probable cause is found, you and your employer may be asked to attend conciliation in an attempt to negotiate a settlement. If settlement negotiations fail, an administrative hearing will be held. If your case goes to public hearing, you will not have to incur any legal expenses or other costs, as you would have to pay in a court case, unless you hire your own private attorney.

You may decide to go through the federal or state court process instead of the Commission’s investigative process. You must first file with the EEOC and request a Notice of Right to Sue letter in order to file in federal court. However, there is no "exhaustion" requirement for state court, which means that you can file directly in North Dakota state court without filing first with the Commission. You have three years to file a claim in state court from the date you believe you were discriminated against. The attorney you hire can explain this process to you.

Many North Dakota attorneys choose to file employment discrimination cases in federal court. However, most cases may be brought in either state or federal court. State law does not allow punitive damages, and it limits the amount of back pay that can be awarded.

more information and a more detailed explanation of the complaint process, please visit the Human Rights Division of the North Dakota Department of Labor website.