Labor and Employment Law Overview: Wyoming
Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.
Author: Vonde Smith, Law Offices of Vonde M. Smith, PC
- Wyoming employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees based on a variety of factors. See Unlawful Discrimination.
- State law provides certain rights to employees who use tobacco products. See Smokers' Rights.
- Wyoming is an at-will employment state. See At-Will Employment.
- Wyoming employers may perform drug testing, but must comply with applicable federal laws. See Preemployment Screening - Criminal History and Drug Testing.
- Wyoming has laws requiring employers to provide employees with time off for voting, jury duty and for military leave. See Time Off.
- There are exceptions to Wyoming's minimum wage law. See Minimum Wage.
- Wyoming imposes scheduling restrictions on child labor. See Child Labor.
- Employers are required to comply with court approved child support and credit garnishments. See Garnishments.
- Wyoming employers are required to provide a reasonably safe workplace. See Workplace Safety.
- Under state law, employers must provide workers' compensation coverage. See Wyoming Workers' Compensation Law.
- Wyoming is a right to work state. See Right to Work Protection for Employees.
- Wyoming does not require employers to provide employee insurance benefits. See Insurance Coverage.
- Restrictive covenants may be enforced in Wyoming. See Postemployment Restrictions.
Key Wyoming Employment Laws
Wyoming has key employment laws affecting the employer-employee relationship. Below, HR professionals will find a summary of certain laws they are most likely to encounter. It is important that HR professionals understand state law and how it interacts with applicable federal laws.
Interplay Between State and Federal Law
Employers are responsible for complying with both state and federal executive orders, statutes, regulations and other legal requirements. Often, state and federal legal requirements will address the same subject matter and impose varying compliance obligations on the employer. For instance, federal law may impose a higher minimum wage rate than state law. Alternatively, state law may require employers to retain certain records for a longer time period than federal law. Unfortunately, employers cannot select which law they want to comply with. Instead, employers that are covered by both state and federal law must comply with both. As a general rule of thumb, complying with the law that offers the greatest possible rights or benefits to the employee will ensure the employer meets its compliance obligations.
Under the Wyoming Fair Employment Practices Act (WFEPA), Wyoming employers are prohibited from discriminating against applicants and employees on account of the individual's:
- Age (40 and over);
- Creed (employers are not required to provide religious accommodations);
- National origin;
- Pregnancy; or
WFEPA applies to public employers and private employers with two or more employees. WFEPA does not apply to religious organizations.
Equal Pay for Equal Work
Wyoming's Equal Pay law requires employers to pay the same wage rate to both males and females for equal work in jobs that:
- Require equal skill, effort and responsibility; and
- Are performed under similar working conditions.
Employers may, however, base wage differentials on any of the following:
- A nondiscriminatory seniority system;
- A nondiscriminatory merit system;
- A system based on the quality or quantity of employees' production; or
- Another nondiscriminatory factor.
State law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who oppose, or support a third party who is opposing, discriminatory employment practices.
State law prohibits employers from conditioning employment, or continued employment, on an individual's non-work-related use (or nonuse) of tobacco products. Employers are also prohibited from discriminating against employees based on their non-work-related use (or nonuse) of tobacco products. Employers may, nonetheless, differentiate between smokers and nonsmokers with respect to the type and price of any health, disability and life insurance offered to employees.
In Wyoming, employees are presumed to be at-will and may quit or be discharged for any reason not specifically prohibited by law (i.e., at-will employees cannot be discharged on the basis of unlawful discrimination or retaliation.).
Promises in Handbooks or Policy Manuals May Be Enforceable
Although employees in Wyoming are presumed to be at-will employees, representations in an employee handbook or policy manual may unintentionally create a legally binding agreement that prohibits the employer from terminating employees unless the employer has cause to do so. To avoid this, employers should take great care in preparing employee handbooks or policies. Handbooks and policies should, at minimum, include a disclaimer explaining:
- It is not intended to be, and should not be construed, as an enforceable agreement between the employee and the employer;
- It is not a promise of continued employment;
- It does not alter the employee's status as an at-will employee; and
- That absent a written agreement between the employer and the employee stating otherwise, all employment with the employer is at-will.
Preemployment Screening - Criminal History and Drug Testing
Wyoming law does not prohibit employers from basing an employment decision on an applicant or employee's criminal history. Employers who make an adverse employment decision based on an applicant or employee's criminal history should follow federal guidelines. Employers may obtain criminal history information if the party being investigated provides a waiver and a fingerprint card from the Wyoming Attorney General.
Wyoming employers may perform drug testing, but must comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Also, Wyoming employers that establish a drug-free workplace program that complies with state law may be eligible for a discount on their workers' compensation insurance premiums.
Time Off and Leaves of Absence
Under Wyoming law, employers must excuse employees from work to attend jury duty.
Employees who are eligible to vote are allowed one hour from work with pay to cast their vote. The employer may determine the time of the leave as long as it is within the time the polls are open.
Wyoming law requires employers to return to work a qualified employee who performs uniformed service and applies for re-employment within specific time limits. There are several conditions that must be met for an employee to qualify, including providing advance notice to the employer and being absent from work for less than five years. Under certain circumstances, employers may be excused from their obligation to reemploy serviceworkers (e.g., doing so would pose an undue hardship on the employer).
Wyoming's minimum wage rate is $5.15 per hour, which is lower than the federal minimum wage rate. When an employee is subject to both the federal and state wage laws, employers must comply with the law offering the greatest rights to the employee. In this case, employers would be required to comply with the federal minimum wage rate.
Where the federal minimum wage rate does not apply and the state minimum wage rate applies, there are exceptions (e.g., certain tipped employees, agricultural workers, government employees). In addition, under state law, employees under 20 years of age may be paid $4.25 for the first 90 consecutive days of work. However, employers are prohibited from displacing current employees for the purpose of hiring an employee under 20 at the reduced pay rate.
Wyoming law limits the type of work minors may perform, the hours minors may work and establishes certain recordkeeping criteria for those who employ minors.
Wyoming's unemployment compensation law provides temporary income to replace a portion of the wages of able-bodied workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Generally, claimants are not eligible for unemployment compensation benefits it they voluntarily quit without good cause, are discharged due to misconduct, refuse to accept suitable work or make false statements to obtain unemployment benefits or overpayment.
Wyoming employers may not discipline nor retaliate against an employee because the employee is subject to a credit garnishment.
Employers must provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Employers are obligated to comply with all standards, rules and regulations issued pursuant to the Wyoming Occupational Safety and Health Act (WOSHA).
Protection for Employers from Unlawful Union Acts
Wyoming courts cannot prohibit peaceful strikes or picketing.
See Labor Relations: Wyoming.
Right to Work Protection for Employees
Wyoming is a right to work state. Meaning, employees in Wyoming cannot be required to join or pay dues to a union. An employer may deduct union dues from an employee's wages only if that employee specifically makes such a request. Employers may not negotiate any collective bargaining agreement that contradicts state right to work provisions.
Wyoming Workers' Compensation Law
Wyoming Worker's Compensation provides no-fault disability insurance to certain Wyoming employees who are injured on the job. Employment classified as extra-hazardous requires worker's compensation coverage.
Wyoming law does not require employers to provide employees with the following:
- Life insurance;
- Disability insurance; or
- Health insurance.
If an employer does provide coverage, however, state and federal laws regulate such coverage. See Employee Benefits > Legally Required Benefits Employee Benefits > Legally Required Benefits: Wyoming
Health Care Continuation (Mini-COBRA Law)
Employers with less than 20 employees are exempt from the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). Under Wyoming law, however, eligible individuals who worked for employers that have less than 20 employees may elect to continue their health care benefits for up to12 months after their employment has ended. Employees must meet eligibility requirements.
Restrictive covenants may be enforced in Wyoming.
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