As a citizen you are afforded basic rights and liberties and those rights should be enforced in the workplace as well. You should be free to seek employment or to work in an environment absent of harassment or discrimination based on traits you cannot change. There are federal laws in place which protect such rights and many states have their own laws as well. Many states establish an agency or department specifically to deal with harassment and discrimination. New Mexico is one of these states. The Human Rights Division deals with issues of discrimination in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations.
New Mexico (NM) Job Discrimination Law in the Workplace says that it is illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, ancestry, sex, age, physical and mental handicap, serious medical condition, disability, spousal affiliation, sexual orientation and gender identity. An employer may not refuse to hire, deny access to a training program, deny promotion, pay less money for equal work, differentiate benefits or terminate without just cause based on any of these characteristics.
If you feel your rights have been violated under New Mexico (NM) Job Discrimination Law in the Workplace you can contact the Human Rights Division and an intake investigator will help you to determine if you have a valid claim and will help you file a complaint. The next step would be mediation where your case can be resolved prior to an investigation if both parties agree to settle. If not, and there is probable cause than the Human Rights Commission will hear your case. They have the capability to award actual and compensatory damages and attorney’s fees. The Human Rights Division is also there to educate and offers free training and technical advice to employer and employee groups or any other interested groups about preventing discrimination in the workplace.
The New Mexico Human Rights Act dictates New Mexico sexual discrimination law in the workplace. Under this act, employers and labor organizations are prohibited from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex.
Under this law, an employer is defined as anyone who employs four or more people and includes agents for the employers (such as employment agencies). This differs from federal law because Title VII applies only to those employers with fifteen or more employees. Employees under this law are those working for or applying for a job with an employer as defined above.
There are a few special conditions in New Mexico: Employers with fifteen or more employees cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and those with 50 or more employees cannot discriminate on the basis of spousal affiliation.
Also included in this law is protection for pregnant women and protection against sexual harassment. It states that pregnancy, pregnancy-related conditions and childbirth must be treated the same as would any other illness or temporary disability. Sexual harassment falls under sexual discrimination when it affects employment status in terms of compensation and conditions of employment.
To file a complaint in New Mexico, you must contact the New Mexico Department of Labor Human Rights Division within 180 of the alleged discriminatory act. An intake officer will help you prepare your charge and then the Division will send a copy of the complaint to your employer and give him or her a chance to respond. Then, an investigator will collect the relevant information and pass it on to the Director who will determine if there is reasonable cause to believe that your rights have been violated or not. If the Director finds reasonable cause, your case will go to a public hearing before the Human Rights Commission. However, you will always have the option to try to settle the case with your employer if both of you agree to go to mediation.
In order to file directly with the federal or state courts, you will first have to request a “Right to Sue” letter from the EEOC or the New Mexico Division. A lawyer can help you determine which route is best for your case.
It’s up to both employers and employees to stay informed about their rights and responsibilities in the workplace. Employers should always have posted a current New Mexico Labor Law Poster.
The New Mexico Law Against Discrimination makes it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of race, creed, religion, color, national origin, physical or mental disability, age, nationality, ancestry, marital status, sexual orientation, sex, or serious medical condition.
The Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act covers workers over 40. The state law follows that guideline, so age discrimination suits can be brought for older workers in the state. In New Mexico, workers may bring an age discrimination suit by filing with either the New Mexico Human Rights Division or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The two agencies cooperate with each other to process claims, so filing a claim with both agencies is unnecessary. Just let the agency you file with know that you want them to cross file the claim with the other agency.
One important point is that the New Mexico anti-discrimination statute covers employers of every size, while the EEOC enforces federal law which covers only employers with 15 or more employees. So if your workplace has between 4 and 14 employees, you may want to file with the HRD. I have heard that it is easier for employees to file with the Human Rights Division. They will send you to mediation. If that is not successful they’ll investigate, and possibly form a panel who will hear your case. If the commission finds that you have been discriminated against, they can award damages, including compensatory damages, and attorney fees.
Your complaint must be filed within 180 days of the date you believe discrimination occurred. You may resolve the case without having to resort to legal action. But if it does go to court, you should know that many attorneys decide to file the claim through the state first, because New Mexico does not limit claims for pain and suffering.