State Law: Nebraska


The Law

The Nebraska Fair Employment Act makes it illegal for an employer or labor organization to discriminate against someone on the basis of sex. The Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission also enforces the Nebraska Equal Pay Act.

Under the Nebraska Fair Employment Act, an "employer" is defined as "a person engaged in an industry who has 15 or more employees for each working day in each of twenty or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year, any agent of such a person, and any party whose business is financed in whole or in part under the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority Act regardless of the number of employees and shall include the State of Nebraska, governmental agencies, and political subdivisions, regardless of the number of employees, but such term does not include (a) the United States, a corporation wholly owned by the government of the United States, or an Indian tribe or (b) a bona fide private membership club, other than a labor organization, which is exempt from taxation under section 501 (c) of the Internal Revenue Code."

Thus, the Nebraska statute against discrimination in the workplace applies only to employers with 15+ employees, which is the same number of employees required for federal jurisdiction under Title VII. However, under the Nebraska Equal Pay Act, the employer must have 25 or more employees to be covered.

The Nebraska Fair Employment Act specifically covers employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, age, sex (including pregnancy), marital status, and national origin.

Sexual harassment under state law includes "making unwelcome sexual advances, requesting sexual favors, and engaging in other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature if:

    a) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment,

    b) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or

    c) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment."

Filing A Complaint

The Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission 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, unless you are solely filing an equal pay or age discrimination claim, in which case you have 4 years to file.

You may file a complaint with the Commission by calling one of the three regional offices located in Nebraska. Please see the Commission’s website to find out which regional office you should contact. When you contact the office, you will make an appointment with the intake unit. An intake officer will discuss the complaint process with you, relevant laws, and assist you in filing a formal charge of discrimination.

The Commission tries to achieve early settlement in most cases, after which it will conduct an investigation if the complaint is not settled or withdrawn. An investigator will be assigned to your case, who will collect all relevant information needed to make a decision. The investigator may decide to hold a fact-finding conference.

After the investigation is complete, a pre-determination interview is conducted "to ensure that each party is given a chance to understand what has transpired, what has been found and what, if anything, either party believes should be looked into further."

After the pre-determination interview, the Executive Director will determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe you have been discriminated against and your rights violated. For all equal pay claims, a decision is made by a majority vote of all Commissioners.

If probable cause is found, you and your employer may be required to attend conciliation in an attempt to negotiate a settlement. If settlement negotiations fail, a public hearing will be held. If your case goes to public hearing, you are advised to retain your own 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 Nebraska state court under state law without filing first with the Commission. The attorney you hire can explain this process to you.

Many Nebraska 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.

For more information and a more detailed explanation of the complaint process, please visit the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission website.