Employment and labor laws in Nebraska [Updated 2023]

Published

Nov 27, 2023

If you’re expanding (or hope to expand) your business into Nebraska, congratulations! From Omaha to Lincoln to the rest of the Cornhusker State, Nebraska has a lot to offer employers—but employers must also be aware of Nebraska's employment and labor laws. 

Across the United States, employment laws play a vital role in shielding workers from discrimination, unfair working conditions, and unsafe work environments. Employers who infringe upon these laws may face severe penalties and legal repercussions. While federal laws apply on a nationwide scale, specific legal obligations can differ from one state to another.

The state of Nebraska offers some additional worker safeguards beyond what’s required at the federal level. As an employer, it's imperative to understand and comply with Nebraska's unique employment regulations.

If you need help with compliance in Nebraska, Rippling’s Professional Employer Organization service can take on your local tax registration and management, eliminating the guesswork and allowing you to grow your business with peace of mind.

Employment vs. labor law: What’s the difference?

Although people often use the terms employment law and labor law interchangeably, these terms do have distinct legal meanings. The main difference lies in who's involved. Employment law primarily deals with issues between an employer and an individual, while labor law comes into play when the matters concern an employer and a group of individuals, such as labor unions.

Here’s more on the distinction between them:

  • Employment law focuses on work hours and overtime, employee wages, recruitment practices, workplace retaliation, and discrimination.
  • Labor law is a subset of employment law. It deals more specifically with group action, including union dues, union membership, and collective bargaining.

Wages and hours in Nebraska

Minimum wage law establishes the lowest hourly wage that employers can legally pay their employees. These regulations ensure a baseline level of income for workers. Overtime law mandates that employees receive higher compensation for working longer than a standard 40-hour workweek.

Minimum Wage in Nebraska

As of 2023, the Nebraska minimum wage is $10.50 per hour, which is higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The state minimum wage is set to increase annually until it reaches $15 per hour in 2026; afterward, the minimum wage will be adjusted each year for cost-of-living increases.

Tipped employees may be paid as little as $2.13 per hour if their tips bring their hourly wage to or above Nebraska’s minimum wage. “Student learners” who are less than 20 years of age may qualify to be paid 75% of the federal minimum wage for their first 90 days of employment, as long as the job is a legitimate vocational training program. Employers who have fewer than four Nebraska employees fall under federal minimum wage laws rather than the state minimum wage.

Juggling minimum wage requirements can be complicated, especially if you’re hiring in states across the US. No matter where your employees are based, Rippling automatically flags minimum wage violations as you’re setting hourly wages. This is particularly helpful in states like Nebraska, where the minimum wage is higher than the federal standard.

Overtime pay in Nebraska

Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), workers who exceed 40 hours per workweek are owed 1.5x their regular rate for those extra hours. Exemptions from overtime law include executive, administrative, and professional employees, as long as they make at least $684 per week.

If you need assistance adhering to overtime pay laws and don’t want to lose track of what employees are owed, Rippling’s payroll software makes it easy. Rippling automatically applies the correct pay rates whenever an employee’s hours trigger overtime pay requirements.

Pay transparency in Nebraska

Pay transparency lifts the veil on compensation practices by giving employees and new hires a clear view of what they can expect to earn and, in some cases, how their pay stacks up against their coworkers. This deliberate sharing of salary information is intended to promote equity, eradicate disparities, and build trust and motivation in the workplace.

Pay transparency is on the rise, with 10 states enforcing pay transparency and more considering bills each year. In Nebraska, however, there are currently no pay transparency laws at either the state or the local level.

Still, many employers have considered or implemented pay transparency efforts even if they aren’t compelled to do so. If you plan to enforce pay transparency, Rippling can help. During the onboarding process, Rippling keeps track of compensation bands, flagging out-of-band adjustments, so you can accept some cases and block others.

Breaks and rest periods in Nebraska

Break time and rest periods give employees the space to recharge, relax, or eat a meal. Generally speaking, Nebraska has no requirements around providing breaks for employees. However, employees may be given breaks as a perk, which can help avoid burnout.

Only certain types of employers are required to provide meal breaks, including those who run assembly plants, workshops, or mechanical establishments. In those cases, employees are owed a 30-minute lunch period for each shift lasting at least eight hours. Other private employers aren’t required to give breaks. If the employer does decide to allow breaks, then breaks under 20 minutes must be paid. Meal periods of 30 minutes or more don’t have to be paid as long as employees are completely relieved of their work duties for the entire break time.

Employers with at least 15 employees are required to provide breaks to workers who need to express breast milk. Employees are entitled to breastfeeding breaks for up to a year after giving birth and must be given access to private, clean facilities. 

Leaves of absence in Nebraska

Employees may decide to use leave to deal with illness, welcome a new child, or manage other personal issues. Several types of leave are mandated by Nebraska law.

All employers in Nebraska must provide:

  • Family and medical leave: Per the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), certain employees are eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid leave for birth, maternity leave, paternity leave, adoption, fostering, caring for a sick family member, and other qualifying life events. To be eligible, the employee must have worked for their employer for a year.
  • Jury duty leave
  • Military leave: All employees are eligible for unpaid military leave with job protection under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). 
  • Military family leave: Employers with 15 or more employees must give time off to those who have spouses or children on active duty.
  • Paid voting leave must be provided for at least two hours of voting time on Election Day.

Only state employees have the right to paid sick leave, bereavement leave, and holiday leave. Private employers aren’t required to provide sick leave, bereavement leave, crime victim leave, vacation leave, holiday leave, or emergency response leave. Still, many do offer additional types of leave as an employee benefit.

Pregnancy disability leave in Nebraska

Employers in the state of Nebraska aren’t compelled to provide pregnancy disability leave (PDL). However, employees may use time under FMLA if they are unable to work due to short-term disability during pregnancy.

Paid sick leave in Nebraska

Employees may use sick time to deal with illness, routine medical appointments, or injuries. While private employers in Nebraska don’t need to offer paid sick leave, it’s a common perk.

You can automate and customize your leave policy with Rippling. Plus, you can get full visibility into how your employees utilize their leave.

Workplace safety in Nebraska

Employers in the United States are legally responsible for maintaining safe working environments, which includes providing safe equipment and protective gear, training employees about safety procedures, and developing safety policies. 

Workplace safety and health hazards fall under the purview of OSHA, and Nebraska employers may request a free health hazard evaluation by the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). US OSHA also offers free consultations via the Nebraska Department of Labor to identify workplace hazards and offer actions to improve the environment. Under Nebraska state law, employers are required to develop a Safety, Health, Injury & Illness Prevention Plan (IIPP), which includes maintaining a written injury prevention program. Most employers must also have safety committees.

Per the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act, Nebraska employers with three or more employees must carry workers’ compensation insurance. Additionally, construction industry employers are required to carry workers’ compensation for all employees, regardless of headcount.

If you’re operating in Nebraska and need workers’ comp insurance but are concerned about cost, Rippling PEO offers a convenient pay-as-you-go plan. Get workers’ compensation coverage without paying upfront for the whole year, so you can grow your business in Nebraska and elsewhere in the US.

Discrimination and harassment laws in Nebraska

Discrimination can take various forms, including unfair hiring, pay disparities, deferred promotions, or other biased treatment. It creates an unjust environment based solely on one’s identity or background.

Workplace harassment happens when employees are made uncomfortable due to a hostile or intimidating atmosphere or unwelcome actions like offensive comments, gestures, slurs, or anything that causes discomfort, fear, or humiliation.

Nebraska employees are protected from discrimination under both federal and state law. Under the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act (FEPA), employers can’t discriminate on the basis of:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Sex
  • National origin
  • Ancestry
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Marital status

Per the Nebraska Age Discrimination in Employment Act, employers also can’t discriminate against job applicants who are over the age of 40.

However, employers are allowed to give preference to job applicants who are veterans, service members, or the spouse of a veteran or service member. If job applicants are given scores during the hiring process, employers are allowed to give these individuals a 5 percent boost. Disabled veterans get an additional 5 percent boost.

Sexual harassment training requirements vary by state. While employers in Nebraska are not required to provide training, it’s highly recommended. After all, employers may be liable for harassment committed by their employees, even if they were unaware of the incident(s) in question. With Rippling’s Learning Management System, you get pre-loaded core sexual harassment training courses that can meet state requirements for all employees, plus any general training.

Unions in Nebraska

Employees may form or join labor unions as a way to advocate for improved working conditions. This might include boosted wages, more time off, better employee benefits, safer working conditions, and so on. Throughout the US, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects the right of employees to:

  • Form or join a union as a method of negotiating with their employer.
  • Take part in collective bargaining by voting for employee representatives.
  • Discuss their employment terms with colleagues and fellow union members.
  • Improve their working conditions by filing complaints with employers or the government or seeking union assistance.
  • Picket or strike if the reasons for doing so are valid.
  • Decline to become a union member.

Labor unions can’t threaten employees with job loss or other punishments if the employees don’t wish to join the union. Conversely, employers aren’t allowed to discourage or prevent employees from joining unions.

Nebraska is a right-to-work state, which means that employees can choose whether they self-organize, join a union, or participate in collective bargaining. Employers can’t require union membership as a condition or qualification for hiring or employment.

FAQs about Nebraska labor and employment laws

Are independent contractors covered under Nebraska employment laws?

No, independent contractors, also referred to as self-employed individuals, freelancers, gig workers, or contract workers, don't benefit from the protections of Nebraska state employment law. This means they’re not covered under minimum wage rates, overtime, leave laws, and other employee safeguards.

Remember, failing to properly classify your workers can land you in hot water. If you’re found to have classified a full-time employee as a contractor, you could owe back pay and face fines as well as other legal issues. Luckily, Rippling’s free analyzer tool can help you determine whether you’re classifying workers correctly.

Does at-will employment exist in Nebraska?

Yes, Nebraska has at-will employment. This means that either employees or employers may end their working agreement at any time and for any reason unless doing so violates the law.

What privacy rights do employees have in Nebraska?

Nebraska employees receive some privacy protections. Under the Workplace Privacy Act, employers can’t ask their workers or job applicants for access to their social media accounts. However, employers are allowed to reasonably monitor electronic devices that they supply, access public information about employees, and take action against employees who download proprietary information to their personal devices without authorization. Further, in Nebraska, it’s legal to record conversations and telephone calls as long as one party has consented, meaning employers may have some rights to record their conversations with employees.

Are background checks legal in Nebraska?

Yes, with some caveats. Those who would like to perform background checks must adhere to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), under which job applicants must be made aware of the background check process and consent to having a background check performed. Nebraska permits drug testing during the hiring process, though you may not publicly post the results.

Are whistleblowers protected in Nebraska?

Yes, the state of Nebraska has whistleblower protections. Under the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act, employers can’t retaliate against employees who report unlawful practices. However, employees who complain about the actions of other employees do not fall under this same protection.

What’s more, under the State Government Effectiveness Act, state employees who become whistleblowers are protected if they report state or federal law violations, gross misuse of funds, or public health and safety hazards to the Nebraska Ombudsman Office.

Is workers’ compensation coverage required in Nebraska?

Yes, under the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act, all employers operating in Nebraska with three or more employees or those in the construction industry (regardless of employee headcount) must carry workers’ compensation insurance. This policy provides financial and medical benefits to employees and their dependents should the employee become sick or die as a result of their work.

Are there required healthcare benefits in Nebraska?

It depends. Small businesses with fewer than 50 full-time employees aren’t required to offer healthcare benefits to their Nebraska employees. However, employers with 50 or more full-timers must provide health insurance according to the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—or face penalties if they fail to do so. 

Are Nebraska employers required to provide bereavement leave?

No, private employers in the state of Nebraska aren’t required to provide bereavement leave. However, state employees are entitled to up to five days off if a member of their immediate family dies.

What employee protections are available in Nebraska if layoffs occur?

Employees have protection from layoffs under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. Under this act, employers must give at least 60 days’ notice about covered plant closings and mass layoffs. They should give this notice directly to employees or their labor union representatives, the Nebraska Department of Labor, and to the local government. When employees are laid off, they are owed their final paycheck in full, plus any applicable vacation time payouts.

Disclaimer: Rippling and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any related activities or transactions.

last edited: November 29, 2023

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