State Law: New Mexico


The Law

The New Mexico 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 means, "any person in the employ of an employer or an applicant for employment." An "employer" is defined as "any person employing four or more persons and any person acting for an employer, including but not limited to, employment agencies."

Thus, the New Mexico statute against discrimination in the workplace applies to all employers with four 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, ancestry, religion, sex, age, physical or mental handicap, or serious medical condition. If the employer has 50 or more employees, spousal affiliation is covered; with 15 or more employees, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identify is investigated.

The Human Rights Act includes within its definition of sex discrimination sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, and discrimination on the basis of marital status. It defines "sexual harassment" as "any unwanted and/or repeated physical or verbal act that is sexual, including sexual advances, sexual conduct, verbal or nonverbal sexual suggestions, sexual ridicule or sexual innuendoes in order to affect employment status relating to matters of compensation or the terms and conditions of employment."

In addition, the New Mexico law against discrimination says, "Women affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions shall be treated the same as other persons who are temporarily disabled for all employment-related purposes, including receipt of benefits under fringe benefit programs. Further, women affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions shall be treated the same as other persons who are temporarily disabled in the areas of credit, housing and public accommodations."

Discrimination on the basis of "marital status" means "rules restricting persons because of their marital status which do not apply equally to the opposite sex with the same status."

Filing A Complaint

The New Mexico Department of Labor Human Rights Division investigates complaints filed with it free of charge. Complaints under state law must be filed within 180 days of the date you were discriminated against. You may file a complaint with the Division by contacting the office at 1-800-566-9471 or (505) 827-6838. The Division is located at 1596 Pacheco St., Suite 103, in Santa Fe.

When you contact the Division to file a complaint, an intake officer will assist you in preparing a formal charge of discrimination. Once you file a complaint with the Division, it will send your employer a copy of your complaint, stating that you believe you were/are being discriminated against. The employer will have an opportunity to respond to this complaint.

An investigator will be assigned to your case to collect all relevant information and talk to witnesses. The Director 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, a public hearing will be held before the Human Rights Commission. The Division offers alternative dispute resolution as an alternative throughout the process, which offers you and the employer an opportunity to try to settle the case. Mediation must first be agreed to by both parties.

You may decide to go through the federal or state court process instead of the Division’s investigative process. You must first file with the EEOC or New Mexico Division and request a Notice of Right to Sue letter in order to file in court. The attorney you hire can explain this process to you.

Many New Mexico attorneys choose to file employment discrimination cases in state court because state law does not limit compensatory damages (emotional pain/suffering) that are capped under federal law. However, state law does not allow for punitive damages, which are recoverable under federal law.

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