The bill passed the Senate today on the vote of 14 to 10, with all Democrats voting for it and all Republicans voting against it. The issue, according to supporters of the civil union bill in new Hampshire, was one of preventing workplace discrimination and giving all folks equal rights under the law. And as I said, the state of New Hampshire is not setting a precedent here—the states of Connecticut, Vermont, and New Jersey already have similar civil union laws. In the state of nearby Massachusetts, they allow same sex couples to get married.
Other states in the country recognize what are called domestic partnerships, which I assume are a couple notches down the legal chain from this civil unions. Those states include Washington state, California, Maine, Washington DC, and New York City of all places. The state of New York, on the other hand, is supposedly considering a gay marriage bill.
Just two years ago in New Hampshire, however, a panel of legal and congressional experts had even concluded that the state should do virtually the opposite—have a constitutional amendment to ban civil unions and same sex marriage. It just shows you how fast things can change.
As of January 2008, according to the new law that did pass—allowing civil unions between same sex couples—this new law will go into effect. The end result, as I discussed earlier in the week (or was it last week?) will be that employers will have to be prepared to allow the partners in these relationships to have health care benefits through their employees, and allow employees to possibly take Family and Medical Leave Act time off in order to care for their partners in the event that they become sick or have an operation of some sorts that lays them low.
Don’t say I didn’t tell you, New Hampshire employers. Just as I was talking about the other day, the legislators in the state capital voted to pass the new civil union bill. That makes New Hampshire the fourth state in the entire country that allows same sex couples to get so called civil unions, legally binding commitments to each other that entitle a worker’s partner to receive much of the same benefits and legal rights as a heterosexual wife or husband.
The bill passed just today, and so it is on its way to the state governor, Gov. John Lynch, who has already voiced support for the bill. So employers could expect a change to the way they offer benefits to their employees pretty soon. This sort of decision by the state can greatly affect not only benefits that an employer must offer his or her employees, but even just basic day to day human resource operations.
Take human resource forms for instance. Forms such as emergency contact forms must now be changed to include a check box for “partner” or “civil union,” along with spouse and married. Forms could be made special for this law, similar to the forms that are already out there for the Family Medical Leave Act Information Sheet, or the Women’s Health & Cancer Rights Act Information Sheet. Even the Cobra Information Sheet might need to be changed and or replaced, again, for something as simple as adding a check box for the domestic partner designation.
FMLA Administrator Kits might need to be amended, because now this new civil union law could change the way the FMLA works. Because now employees will be allowed possibly to use the FMLA to take time off to care for their domestic partner. The possibilities of change are seemingly limitless just on the addition of this one important law.
The law in New Hampshire against discrimination says that it is illegal for employers to discriminate because of age, sex, race, marital status, disability, color, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation. Pregnant women are protected by the discrimination law. The employer must allow a pregnant woman to take time of if she has any sort of pregnancy related illness. They also must reinstate the woman to her job after the baby is born.
If you feel your rights have been violated, you can file a discrimination lawsuit one of two ways. You can file it with the New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights, or with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is a federal agency. Whichever one you file your suit with will share the case with the other, so you do not file with both agencies.
I am sure you would be relieved if your case were successfully taken care of by the administrative agency. In this case, you can avoid actually filing a lawsuit, and it would be preferable if this turned out to be the way you went. If you do not get a satisfactory resolution, you probably should follow through with the filing of a lawsuit. You must wait until your case has been pending with the NHCHR for a total of 180 days before you can request the right-to-sue notice and proceed with your state claim. The statute of limitations based on your state claim is three years; in other words, from the day that you are claiming the discrimination occurred, you have three years to file a lawsuit. After that period of time, you may not be eligible to file a suit.
I hope this makes the New Hampshire Discrimination Notice a little clearer. This law is part of the series of laws that all should be posted in your place of employment.
Being an employee in the state of New Hampshire you are afforded certain rights, one of these being the freedom from physical, racial, sexual or religious harassment, abuse, or segregation at your place of work. Any type of harassment could be considered a violation of state and or federal discrimination laws. Such laws are put into place to protect individuals from unfair or unequal treatment in the course of employment. These laws apply to not only employers but also employment agencies and labor organizations as well. In New Hampshire there is an agency that is set up to deal with such matters and to educate the public, as well as employers on what to do to stay in compliance with the laws.
New Hampshire (NH) job discrimination law in the workplace deems that it is unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire, to discharge, to promote or demote, to harass during the course of employment, or to discriminate in matters of compensation against any person otherwise qualified because of age, sex, race, creed (religion), color, marital status, physical or mental disability, national origin or sexual orientation. For an employment agency to refuse to list and properly classify for employment or to refer an individual for employment in a known available job for which such individual is otherwise qualified for any of the reasons stated or for a labor organization to exclude any individual otherwise qualified from full membership rights in such labor organization, or to expel any such individual from membership on any of these basis.
While most of the laws covered under New Hampshire (NH) job discrimination law in the workplace are federal statutes, the state law expands on disability, especially pregnancy. Employers, employment agencies or labor organizations may not discriminate against or exclude individuals with a disability. The general rule is that pregnancy must be treated in the same manner that the employer treats other temporary physical disabilities.
New Hampshire sexual discrimination law in the workplace follows the New Hampshire Law Against Discrimination. This law makes is illegal for employers to discriminate against employees and potential employees on the basis of sex.
Under this law, employers are those who have six or more employees including the State of New Hampshire, but excluding associations that are social, fraternal, charitable, educational or religious in nature. Included with employers are labor organizations and employment agencies. This differs from the federal Title VII because Title VII applies only to those employers who have fifteen or more employees. Employees are defined by this law as everyone employed by an employer as defined above, except for people employed by their parent, spouse or child. It also excludes domestic servants.
This law prohibits employers, labor organizations and employment agencies from discriminating against an employee on the basis of sex in terms of compensation, job condition and privileges. Also included in the sexual discrimination law is sexual harassment when such conduct is made a term of employment, when such conduct is part of the decision in terms of the employee’s employment or when such conduct creates a hostile work environment.
Pregnant women are also protected under this New Hampshire law. In most states, pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions must be treated the same as other illness and short-term disabilities are treated by the employer. In New Hampshire, however, pregnant women must be given time-off and then reinstated into the same or similar position even if the employer doesn’t have such a policy for other illness or short-term disability.
Anyone who wants to file a complaint against their employer must do so with the New Hampshire Human Rights Commission within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act by either calling or emailing the Commission office.
After filing your complaint, the Commission will try to get an early settlement. It this doesn’t work, an investigator will investigate the claims and make a decision of probable cause or no probable cause. If the investigator finds probable cause to believe that your rights have been violated, you and your employer will enter a settlement phase. In the account that you are unable to negotiate a settlement, you will have a public hearing heard by three Commission members.
If you want to take your case through the federal or state courts, you’ll need to first file a request for a “Right to Sue” letter from either the EEOC or the New Hampshire Human Rights Commission.
While it’s important for employers to know their responsibilities when it comes to sexual discrimination law in the workplace, it’s equally important for employees to understand their rights. To help with this process, all employers need to have a current New Hampshire Complete Labor Law Poster available in the workplace.