North Dakota Whistleblower Laws

Whistleblower Laws as they apply to the state of North Dakota

A Summary of North Dakota Whistleblower Laws

North Dakota is an employment-at-will state. This means employees can be discharged from work for any reason or no reason. However, there are a few exceptions to this doctrine that are used to protect employees from wrongful retaliation. These exceptions include common law protections and statutory protections. Statutory protections are laws that are enacted by the state’s legislature to address specific subject areas, e.g., workers’ compensation, whereas common law protections are laws that are created by courts to address subject areas that are not covered by enacted laws.

This is a summary of North Dakota Whistleblower Laws, make sure to check out the Federal Whistleblower Laws as well.

Whistleblower Rights in North Dakota

Common Law Protections for Whistleblowers in North Dakota

North Dakota has a public policy that is applied as an exception to the employment-at-will doctrine. Therefore, it is illegal for employers to discharge an employee for reasons that violate public policy. To determine whether an employee is eligible for protection under the state’s public policy, the courts usually rely on statutory protections, constitutional provisions, and prior judicial opinions. For example, if a statute endorses a worker’s right to collect a wage not less than the minimum wage, an employer who discharges an employee in retaliation for exercising such a right may be found guilty of violating public policy. Generally, North Dakota protects employees who engage in the following activities from wrongful discharge:

  • Refusing to commit perjury.
  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim.
  • Honoring a subpoena.

Statutory Protections

General Whistleblower Protection in North Dakota

Employers are not allowed to discharge, threaten, discipline, alter terms of employment, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Reporting in good faith a violation of a federal, state, or local law, rule, or regulation to the employer, law enforcement official, or public body.
  • Being invited to participate in an investigation, hearing, or inquiry.
  • Refusing to carry out a directive by the employer that would result in a violation of a federal, state, or local law, rule, or regulation. The employee must have a reasonable belief that the directive is unlawful and must inform the employer of the reason for the refusal.

N.D. Cent. Code § 34-01-20.

Child Abuse And Neglect

Employers are not allowed to in any way retaliate against an employee for:

  • Reporting in good faith a suspected abuse or neglect of a child.
  • Reporting that a child died as a result of neglect or abuse.
  • Being a child who suffered neglect or abuse, and to whom a report was made on his or her behalf.

N.D. Cent. Code § 50-25.1-09.1.

Vulnerable Adults

Employers are not allowed to discipline or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for reporting in good faith the suspected abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult. Vulnerable adults are people who need community care services because they are unable to protect themselves from harm or exploitation due to disability, age, or illness. N.D. Cent. Code § 50-25.2-11.

Discrimination

It is unlawful for a person to discharge, threaten, or in any way discriminate against another person in retaliation for:

  • Opposing discriminatory practices deemed unlawful by this statute.
  • Filing a complaint under this statute.
  • Testifying or participating in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this statute.

N.D. Cent. Code § 14-02.4-18.

Labor Organizations

It is considered an unfair labor practice for an employer to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Being a member of a labor organization.
  • Filing a charge under this statute.
  • Testifying in a proceeding or action under this statute.

N.D. Cent. Code § 34-12-03.

Abuse or Neglect of a Person with Developmental Disabilities

It is against the law for an employer to discharge, discipline or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for reporting the suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a person with developmental disabilities or mental illness. The employee should have a reasonable cause to suspect the mistreatment of the concerned person. N.D. Cent. Code § 25-01.3-05.

Long-Term Care Facilities

Long term care facilities are not allowed to threaten or in any way retaliate against an employee for:

  • Filing a complaint on behalf of a resident.
  • Providing information regarding a complaint to a long-term care ombudsman.

N.D. Cent. Code § 50-10.1-05.

Wage Discrimination

Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for invoking or assisting in the enforcement of this statute. Under this statute, it is against the law for an employer to discriminate against his or her employees on the basis of sex by paying a certain wage to employees of a certain sex even though employees of both sexes are working comparable jobs. N.D. Cent. Code § 34-06.1-03.

Wages and Hours

Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for testifying or intending to testify in an investigation or proceeding concerning North Dakota minimum wage and hour laws. N.D. Cent. Code § 34-06-18.

Smoking

No person or employer is allowed to discharge, refuse to hire, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Exercising a right under this statute.
  • Reporting a violation of smoking laws that prohibit smoking in all enclosed areas of places of employment or public places.

N.D. Cent. Code § 23-12-10.

Workforce Safety and Insurance

It is illegal for an employer to discharge or threaten to discharge an employee in retaliation for seeking or intending to seek workforce safety and insurance benefits. N.D. Cent. Code § 65-05-37.

Whistleblower Retaliation Claims in North Dakota

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, retaliation lawsuits should be filed with the appropriate court within 6 years of the retaliation.

General Whistleblower Protection

Aggrieved employees under this statute can file a complaint with the North Dakota Department of Labor and Human Rights within 300 days of the retaliatory action. Employees can also choose to file a lawsuit with the appropriate court. However, they are required to make an effort to resolve the complaint through the employer’s internal grievance procedures before going to court. Lawsuits should be filed within 180 days of the retaliatory action or within 180 days of completing the grievance procedures.

Wage Discrimination

Lawsuits under this statute should be filed within 2 years of the retaliatory action.

Discrimination

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the North Dakota Department of Labor and Human Rights. Complainants can also choose to file a lawsuit with the appropriate court. Either way, any action taken to resolve the complaint or violation must be done within 300 days of the retaliation. Also, lawsuits should be filed 90 days after the department has dismissed the complaint or after the department has issued a written probable cause for determination.

Whistleblower Hotlines in North Dakota

To file a complaint with the North Dakota Department of Labor and Human Rights, call 1-800-366-6888 or click here.

Whistleblower Retaliation and Violation Penalties in North Dakota

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable to the aggrieved employee for a combination or any of the following:

  • Reinstatement of the employee.
  • Payment of back pay.
  • Reinstatement of fringe benefits.
  • Temporary or permanent injunctive relief.
  • Litigation costs.
  • Damages.
  • Plus any other relief deemed appropriate.

General Whistleblower Protection

Employers who willfully violate this statute may be found guilty of an infraction. They may also be liable to the aggrieved employee for a combination or any of the following:

  • Reinstatement of the employee.
  • Payment of back pay for not more than two years after the violation.
  • Reinstatement of fringe benefits.
  • Temporary or permanent injunctive relief.

Interim earnings or amounts earnable with reasonable diligence by the employee will be used to reduce the back pay otherwise allowable.

Child Abuse And Neglect

Employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be found guilty of a class B misdemeanor. Any adverse action taken against the employee within 90 days of the employee making a report will be considered as retaliation.

Abuse or Neglect of a Person with Developmental Disabilities

Employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be found guilty of a class B misdemeanor. Any adverse action taken against the employee within 90 days of the employee making a report will be considered as retaliation.

Vulnerable Adults

Employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be found guilty of a class B misdemeanor. Any adverse action taken against the employee within 90 days of the employee making a report will be considered as retaliation.

Discrimination

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Temporary or permanent injunctions.
  • Equitable relief.
  • Payment of back pay for not more than two years after the complaint was filed.

Interim earnings or amounts earnable with reasonable diligence by the employee will be used to reduce the back pay otherwise allowable.

Labor Organizations

If the commissioner of labor determines that an employer unlawfully retaliated against an employee, he or she may award the following relief to the aggrieved employee:

  • Cease and desist.
  • Reinstatement with or without back pay.

Smoking

Employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be found guilty of a class B misdemeanor.

Wage Discrimination

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Payment of unpaid wages, if any.
  • Reinstatement of the aggrieved employee.
  • Litigation costs, including reasonable attorney’s fees.

Workforce Safety and Insurance

Employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Damages incurred as a result of the retaliation.
  • Reasonable attorney’s fees.
  • Damages awarded will not replace any workforce safety and insurance benefits that the employee is entitled to.

Wages and Hours

Employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be found guilty of a class B misdemeanor.

More North Dakota Laws

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