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Quick and Easy Guide to Labor & Employment Law: Idaho

This state-specific guide covers labor and employment case law, statutes, rules, and regulations that HR professionals and clients often encounter or have questions about in Idaho.

At-Will Employment

Idaho is an at-will employment state. In Idaho, this means that unless an employee is hired under a contract that includes a specific duration of employment and/or limits the reasons why the employee may be discharged, the employer may discharge the employee for any reason or no reason as long as it is not an unlawful reason. Venable v. Internet Auto Rent & Sales, Inc., 329 P.3d 356, 360 (Idaho 2014). Idaho has a narrow exception to at-will employment where the employer's motivation for the termination contravenes public policy. Id. The Idaho Supreme Court has held "[t]he public policy exception has been held to protect employees who refuse to commit unlawful acts, who perform important public obligations or who exercise certain legal rights or privileges." Sorensen v. Comm Tek, Inc., 118 Idaho 664, 668 (1990). The public policy has been applied in instances, including protecting participating in union activities (Watson v. Idaho Falls Consol. Hosps., Inc., 111 Idaho 44 (1986)), protecting reports of electrical building code violations (Ray v. Nampa Sch. Dist. No. 131, 120 Idaho 117), protecting compliance with a court issued subpoena (Hummer v. Evans, 129 Idaho 274) and protection for serving on a jury (Sorensen v. Comm Tek, Inc., 118 Idaho 664). Employers in Idaho must also abide by Idaho Code Title 67 Chapter 59 which mirrors Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Right-to-Work Laws

Right-to-work in Idaho means any type of union membership requirement as a condition for employment is prohibited. Idaho Code § 44-2003. The statute also states no wages may be deducted for union fees unless the employee provides a signed, written authorization. Idaho Code § 44-2004.

Immigration Verification

Employers in Idaho should refer to federal employment eligibility verification rules, but Idaho does not require private employers to use the E-Verify system.

Drug Testing

Idaho regulates drug and alcohol testing by employers. Idaho Code Title 72 Chapter 17, § 72-1702 grants private employers the right to "test employees or prospective employees for the presence of drugs or alcohol as a condition of hiring or continued employment provided the testing requirements and procedures are in compliance with 42 U.S.C. § 12101." The Idaho Code also requires employers have a written testing policy. § 72-1705. The written policy must include:

  • The consequences of violating a substance abuse policy;
  • The types of tests that will be conducted; and
  • An explanation of the testing procedures to be used.

An individual whose test comes back positive must be given the opportunity to explain the result and has the right to be retested.

Under Idaho law, the employer may test for the following reasons, but are not limited to this list only: baseline, pre-employment, post-accident.

When a workplace accident occurs and the employees blood alcohol content evidences intoxication, that alone does not necessarily mean intoxication was the substantial cause of the accident. Giles v. Eagle Farms, Inc., 339 P.535, 540 (Id. 2014). Idaho Code § 72-208 does not contain a presumptive standard.

NOTE: Idaho is one of only a few states without some sort of policy allowing residents to possess products with even low amounts of THC. In Idaho any about of THC is illegal, and marijuana is illegal in all forms.

Jury Duty Leave

In Idaho, employers are prohibited from threatening, discharging, disciplining or otherwise penalizing, including communicating the intention to take action against, an employee summoned and attending jury duty. Idaho Statutes § 2-218(1). However, there is no Idaho law requiring employers to pay employees while serving jury duty. An employer who is found to have violated Idaho Statute §2-218(1) may be fined not more than $300. Idaho Statutes §2-218(2). If any employer discharges an employee for attending court for jury service or serving as a juror, the employee may bring a civil action within 60 days of discharge for recovery of treble the amount of wages lost and requesting an order requiring reinstatement of the employee. Idaho Statutes 2-218(3). If the employee is successful in the lawsuit, the employee is also allowed recovery of a reasonable attorney's fee. Id.

Voting Leave

Idaho does not have a law which requires an employer to grant its employees leave, either paid or unpaid, to vote.

Parental Leave

There is no Idaho statute providing for pregnancy or parental leave, but the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) gives employees the right to take time off to bond with a new child as part of their 12-week leave entitlement. 5 U.S.C. § 6382. Effective July 1, 2020, in accordance with the Families First Act, Idaho Executive Order 2020-003, eligible State of Idaho employees within the executive branch may use up to eight weeks of paid parental leave due to the birth or adoption of a child. The Executive Order encourages other state elected officials, independent commissions, legislature and judiciary to adopt similar policies for their employees, but it is not required.

Smoking Laws

Smoking is not allowed in a public place or publicly-owned building. Idaho Code § 39-5503. However, an employee breakroom in a small business employing five or fewer employees may designate an employee breakroom for smoking. Idaho Code § 39-5503. This designated breakroom cannot be the accessible to minors, must be separated from other parts of the building, is not the sole means of entrance or exit, and not in an area where an employee is required to enter for work responsibilities (not including custodial or maintenance work when it is unoccupied). Id. Additionally, a "Warning: Smoking Permitted" sign must be prominently posted with letters of at least one inch in height. Id.

There are no laws to prevent employers from having a nicotine free hiring policy. In fact, the Central District Health Department voted in 2011 to stop hiring smokers. The Adad County Sheriff's office has had a similar policy since 2002. Private employer Blue Cross of Idaho has also instituted a nicotine free hiring policy. There is nothing in Idaho law to protect employees' rights to engage in legal activities when they are off duty. As of today, the nicotine free hiring policies are still allowed.

Break Time to Express Milk

Idaho has no specific legislation to protect or support breastfeeding mothers in the workplace. If the mother is protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA), employers are required to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child. Additionally, under the FLSA, employers are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.

Meal Breaks

Idaho has no statute regulating breaks for meals. If the FSLA applies to the employer, then an employee who takes a break that is 20 minutes or less must be paid for the break time at their normal rate. An employer does not have to pay for a break if it is longer than 20 minutes and the employee is relieved of all work during the break.

Minimum Wage

Idaho's required minimum wage is the same as the federal minimum wage rate. Idaho Statutes § 44-1502. Idaho's minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Id. For tipped workers, the minimum cash wage is $3.35 per hour. Id. If tips do not at least equal the minimum wage, the employer must make up the difference. Id.

Final Payments

A discharged employee must be paid all wages due on the next regularly scheduled payday or within ten days of layoff or termination, whichever is earlier. Idaho Code § 45-606.

An employer is only required to pay accrued vacation to an employee upon separation from employment if his or her policy or contract requires it. See Ferguson v. City of Orofino, 953 P.2d 630 (1998); Jackson v. Minidoka Irrigation Dist., 563 P.2d 54 (1977). As Idaho law does not require vacation or sick pay, an employer may determine its policy regarding vacation or sick pay and whether it is payable upon separation.

Unemployment Insurance

Idaho has an unemployment insurance system administered by the Idaho Department of Labor, which requires most Idaho employers to contribute to the state unemployment insurance fund. Idaho Code § 72-1315.

Employers are required to remit unemployment insurance taxes and to submit certain related reports quarterly. Idaho Code § 72.1311. Unemployed workers must meet certain criteria to qualify for unemployment insurance benefits.

Workers' Compensation

Idaho has a workers' compensation program that is administered by the Industrial Commission and contained in Idaho Code § 72.-102, et seq. The workers' compensation laws apply to all public and private entities employing one or more employee. Idaho Code § 72-204 and 205. There are limited exclusions found in Idaho Code § 72-213.

Under common law, Idaho has a public policy exception to its at-will employment doctrine. Because the right to collect workers' compensation benefits has been endorsed by an Idaho statement, an employer who retaliates against an employee for invoking that right would likely be in violation of public policy. See Berrett v. Clark County School District No. 161, 454 P.3d 555, 569 (Idaho 2019) (citing Sorenson v. Comm Tek, Inc., 799 P.2d 70, 74 (1990).

An injury for purposes of workers' compensation, is an "injury caused by an accident arising out of and in the course of any employment covered by the worker’s compensation law." Idaho Code § 72-102. Injuries suffered because of the employee's willful intention to injure himself or another are not covered. Idaho Code 72-208. If intoxication is the reasonable and substantial cause of an injury there is no coverage, unless employer permitted the employee to remain at work knowing the employee was intoxicated. Id.

Firearm/Weapon Laws

Employers have immunity from civil damages if a lawsuit arises out of the employer's policy to allow or not prohibit employees from storing firearms in their vehicles on the employer's premises. Idaho Code § 5-341. Idaho has no law prohibiting an employer from restricting or banning employees from bringing weapons onto the premises. Policies can include bans on firearms, allowance of firearms, requiring reporting to supervisor if the employee possesses a concealed carry permit and intends to carry, or any other requirement or prohibition the employer sees fit to institute.

Additional Laws and Regulations

Minimum Age

Persons under age 14 cannot be employed in certain industries and/or types of work. Idaho Code § 44-1301. Persons under the age of 14 may not be employed during the regular school hours of the public school district in which the child resides, before 6:00 am or after 9:00 pm. Id. Violations of the Child Labor Laws found in Idaho Code §§ 44-1301 and 1302 may be fined $50.

WARN Laws

Idaho does not have a statute mandating notice for terminations. Employers in Idaho must follow the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN).

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Disclaimer: These materials do not constitute
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Guide last updated July 2021.

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