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Quick and Easy Guide to Labor & Employment Law: Louisiana

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 Louisiana.

At-Will Employment

The employer/employee relationship is governed by the at-will employment doctrine. La. Civil Code art. 2747. This means that either party may terminate the relationship at any time, with or without cause, and with or without notice. However, absent a disclaimer to the contrary, the terms and conditions of an employer's Employment Manual or Handbook may narrow and restrict the employment at-will doctrine and create "enforceable contractual obligations." Patino v. Dillard Univ., 2016 WL 3019301, *6 (La. App. 4 Cir. May 25, 2016). However, handbook disclaimers are generally effective at preserving the at-will relationship.

Right-to-Work Laws

The State of Louisiana is a right-to-work state. It is the "public policy of Louisiana that all persons shall have, and shall be protected in the exercise of the right, freely and without fear of penalty or reprisal, to form, join and assist labor organizations or to refrain from any such activities." La. Rev. Stat. § 23:981. The general right to work laws for the state of Louisiana may be found at La. Rev. Stat. §§ 23:981 through 987. Notably, no person can be required, as a condition of employment, to become or remain a member of any labor organization or to pay any dues, fees, assessments or other charges of any kind to a labor organization. La. Rev. Stat. § 23:983. The Agricultural Laborers' Right to Work Law is found at La. Rev. Stat. §§ 23:881 through 889 and similarly provides that no agricultural laborer may be required to become or remain a member of any labor union or labor organization as a condition of employment or continuation of employment by such employer.

Immigration Verification

All private contractors who want to do business with a state or local public entity must use E-Verify and, prior to bidding or contracting with a public entity, verify in a sworn affidavit that it: (1) participates in E-Verify, (2) will continue to participate in E-Verify throughout the period of the contract and (3) will require all subcontractors to submit sworn affidavit evidencing (1) and (2). La. Rev. Stat. § 38:2212.10.

As of August 15, 2011, all Louisiana employers must either use E-Verify or retain picture identification of employees using one of the listed documents in La. Rev. Stat. § 23:995 to avoid penalties. Section 23:995 penalizes an employer who employs, hires, recruits or refers for employment any person without employment eligibility in the United States.

E-Verify is strongly recommended because only the use of E-Verify creates a rebuttal presumption of good faith compliance with the law. If an employer fails to comply with § 23:995, it may face cancellation of public contracts, ineligibility for future public contracts for a period of up to three years, increasing monetary fines and an eventual loss of licensure.

Drug Testing

The State of Louisiana provides guidelines regarding the drug testing of employees in the workplace. La. Rev. Stat. §§ 49:1001 through 1021. The statutory scheme adopts by reference the federal guidelines for the drug testing of federal employees. In general, the confidentiality of drug testing information must be maintained except for administrative, disciplinary or civil litigation proceedings where such information is relevant. La. Rev. Stat. § 49:1012. Employees are entitled to access to all drug testing records, if the result is positive, within seven business days of a written request. La. Rev. Stat. § 49:1011. Employers cannot require an employee to pay the cost of a drug test or pass on to the applicant or withhold from an employee's pay the cost of a drug test (or fingerprinting, a medical examination, or the cost of furnishing any records available to the employer). La. Rev. Stat. § 23:897. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, an employer will not be held liable for defamation, libel, slander, or damage to reputation or privacy of an employee when the employer's testing policies/procedures are in accordance with the law. La. Rev. Stat. § 49:1012. Denial of Workers' Compensation Benefits and Unemployment Benefits can result if the employee fails or otherwise refuses to submit to a drug test. See La. Rev. Stat. §§ 23:1081, 23:1601 (10).

It should also be noted that there are additional specific requirements pertaining to the obtaining of a sample, chain of custody and lab certifications. Employers should cautiously approach drug testing as it can present substantial hurdles.

Jury Duty Leave

The State of Louisiana requires an employer to provide to its employees a paid leave of absence, without loss of sick, emergency, or personal leave or any other benefit, of "up to one day" for jury duty; otherwise, leave for jury duty may be without pay. Also, an employer shall not discharge or otherwise subject any adverse employment action, without cause, against an employee on account of his or her being called to serve or presently serving on any jury. La. Rev. Stat. § 23:965. The employer also shall not make, adopt or enforce any rule, regulation or policy providing for the discharge of any employee who has been called to serve, or who is presently serving on, any grand jury or on any jury at any criminal or civil trial, provided the employee notifies his or her employer of such summons within a reasonable period of time after receipt of a summons and prior to his or her appearance for jury duty.

Voting Leave

The State of Louisiana does not require an employer to offer to its employees time off to vote.

Parental Leave

For those employers who employ more than 25 employees, the State of Louisiana requires that a female employee receive at least six weeks of disability leave on account of a normal pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition or a reasonable amount of time up to four months for a disability caused by pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions. La. Rev. Stat. §§ 23:341, 23:342. Employees returning from maternity leave are to be placed in the same or comparable position, consistent with staffing and business requirements.

Additionally, under La. Rev. Stat. § 23:342, it is an unlawful employment practice for an employer to refuse to allow a female employee affected by "pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions" to (1) receive the same benefits or privileges provided to persons not so affected who are similar in their inability to work, including to take disability, sick leave or other accrued leave that is made available to temporarily disabled employees and to (2) take leave on account of pregnancy for a reasonable period of time, provided such period shall not exceed four months. For this second circumstance, the female employee "shall be entitled to utilize any accrued vacation leave during this period of time."

Military Leave

An employee is eligible for military leave when called to active service in the military. La. Rev. Stat. § 29:406(A). An employee is entitled to take leave for the period of military service and, if the service is intermittent, the leave may be intermittent. La. Rev. Stat. §§ 29:404, 29:406(A). To be entitled to reemployment, an employee must give an employer advance written or verbal notice of the call to military service. La. Rev. Stat. § 29:410(A). However, no notice is required if giving notice is precluded by military necessity or, under all of the relevant circumstances, the giving of notice is otherwise impossible or unreasonable. La. Rev. Stat. § 29:410(B). To return following the end of military service, the employee must also provide verbal or written notice of intent to return. La. Rev. Stat. § 29:410(E).

Other Leave

The State of Louisiana does not require employers to offer to employees paid vacation or sick leave. The Louisiana School and Day Care Conference and Activities Leave Act provides that an employer may grant an employee up to 16 hours of leave per year to "attend, observe or participate in conferences or classroom activities related to the employee's dependent children at the child's school or day care center, if the conferences or classroom activities cannot reasonably be scheduled during the non-work hours of the employee." La. Rev. Stat. § 23:1015.2. The employee seeking such leave must give reasonable notice of the leave. The employer is not required to pay the employee for such leave, but an employee "shall be permitted" to substitute accrued vacation time or other appropriate paid leave for any leave taken pursuant to this Section.  La. Rev. Stat. § 23:1015.2(B).

There is also law governing leave time for first responders that provides an employee who leaves employment in order to perform the duties of a first responder pursuant to this Part shall be treated as being on temporary leave of absence subject to the terms and conditions of the employer's stated policy regarding leaves of absence and provided that he applies for reinstatement in accordance with La. Rev. Stat. § 23:1017.3, 23:1017.1, et. seq. Further, there is a law governing certified volunteer firefighters employed by the State of Louisiana providing they shall not be denied "leave, work-related benefits or employment for absenting himself from said employment for the purpose of emergency response pursuant to such certification." La. Rev. Stat. § 23:893.

Smoking Laws

Employers are not permitted to discriminate against an individual with respect to discharge, compensation, promotion, any personnel action or condition, or privilege of employment because the employee is a smoker (a person who smokes tobacco) or non-smoker. However, an employer is free to formulate and adopt a policy regulating the use of tobacco in the workplace. La. Rev. Stat. § 23:966.

Additionally, Louisiana enacted the Smokefree Air Act, which prohibits smoking in any public building, school, public place in any enclosed area, or enclosed area in any place of employment. La. Rev. Stat. § 40:1291.11

Break Time to Express Milk

The State of Louisiana has no law regulating the expression of breast milk in the workplace. Therefore, employers need only comply with Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act. However, the Legislature of Louisiana has found that breast milk provides better nutrition and more immunity to disease, is easier for babies to digest, and may raise a baby's intelligence quotient and declared that the promotion of family values and infant health demands an end to the "vicious cycle of embarrassment and ignorance that constricts women and men alike on the subject of breastfeeding." La. Rev. Stat. § 51:2247.1(1)(2)-(3). Consequently, a mother may breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be present. La. Rev. Stat. § 51:2247.1.

Meal Breaks

The State of Louisiana has no law regulating meal breaks or rest periods-other than for minors. No minor shall work for any five-hour period without at least a 30-minute break for meals. La. Rev. Stat. § 23:213. This break shall not be included as part of the working hours of the day.

Minimum Wage

The State of Louisiana has no minimum wage law. Employers are therefore subject to federal minimum wage law. Notably, local governmental units are specifically forbidden in Louisiana from enacting laws requiring private employers to pay a higher minimum wage than federal law requires. La. Rev. Stat. § 23:642.

Final Payments

Following separation, an employee must be paid all wages due and owing on the next scheduled payday, or no later than 15 days following the discharge, whichever occurs first. La. Rev. Stat. § 23:631. Additionally, no person shall require an employee to sign a contract forfeiting his wages if discharged before the contract is completed or if the employee resigns before the contract is completed La. Rev. Stat. § 23:634. The employee is entitled to wages actually earned. Id. The employee may sign a contract providing that the costs of the individual medical examination or drug test may be withheld from wages if employee resigns within 90 working days provided the employee is paid not less than one dollar above the existing federal minimum wage and the resignation was not attributable to a substantial change to employment made by the employer. Id. at 634(B).

Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment insurance benefits provide income to individuals who have lost work through no fault of their own. The benefits are intended to partially offset the loss of wages while an unemployed worker searches for suitable work or until an employer can recall the employee to work. Nothing is deducted from the employee's wages to pay for this coverage, and an employer shall not discharge an employee for filing a claim for unemployment compensation benefits. La. Rev. Stat. § 23:1691.

Unemployment benefits are administered by the Louisiana Workforce Commission and additional information regarding the benefits may be accessed here.

Workers' Compensation

The Louisiana Workers' Compensation Law, La. Rev. Stat. § 23:1020.1, et seq., applies to every employer in Louisiana, subject to certain exemptions. Employees who suffer injuries and/or occupational diseases arising out of and in the course of their employment may be eligible to receive several types of benefits under the Law. The Law is administered by the Louisiana Workforce Commission and additional information regarding the Law may be accessed here.

Under the Law, a workplace injury must be immediately reported to the employer; failing to timely report an injury may result in a denial of benefits. However, if an employer fails to post a required workers' compensation notice in a conspicuous place, the timeframe for an employee to report an injury extends to one year form the date of the injury. La. Rev. Stat. § 23:1302. Finally, Louisiana prohibits the discharge of an employee for filing a workers' compensation claim. La. Rev. Stat. § 23:1691.

Gun Laws

No public or private employer shall be liable for damages resulting from or arising out of an occurrence involving a firearm transported or stored (§ 32:292.1), other than for a violation of Subsection C of this Section. Under Subsection C, no public or private employer shall prohibit any person from transporting or storing a firearm. However, nothing prohibits an employer from adopting a policy requiring firearms stored in locked personal vehicles to be hidden from plain view or within a locked case or container within the vehicle. La. Rev. Stat. § 32:292.1(C). This section does not apply to any property where possessing a firearm is prohibited under state or federal law, any vehicle owned by the employer and used by the employee in the course of his employment, and any vehicle or property controlled by the employer if access is restricted by a fence, gate, security stations, signage or other means of restriction, and if one of the following conditions applies: The employer or business entity provides facilities for the temporary storage of unloaded firearms, or the employer or business entity provides an alternative parking area reasonably close to the main parking area in which employees and other persons may transport or store firearms in locked, privately-owned motor vehicles. La. Rev. Stat. § 32:292.1.

Additional Laws & Regulations

Employment Discrimination Law

The Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law prohibits discrimination against applicants or employees in the terms or conditions of employment based on age (40 and older) (La. Rev. Stat. § 23:312), veterans for taking time away from work to attend medical appointments necessary to meet the requirements to receive veterans benefits (La. Rev. Stat. § 23:331); disability (La. Rev. Stat. § 23:323); race, color, religion, se, and national origin (La. Rev. Stat. § 23:332); sickle cell trait (La. Rev. Stat. § 23:352); protected genetic information (La. Rev. Stat. § 23:368) and pregnancy, childbirth or related medical condition (La. Rev. Stat. § 23:342). Its provisions apply to all employers, with the exception of certain religious educational institutions, that employ 20 or more employees within the State of Louisiana (La. Rev. Stat. § 23:302). The provisions relating to pregnancy discrimination apply to employers with 25 or more employees in the State and include a provision, among others, that make it an unlawful employment practice to refuse to temporarily transfer a pregnant employee to a less strenuous or hazardous position for the duration of the pregnancy if she so requests such an accommodation, with the advice of her physician, where such transfer can be reasonably accommodated but there is no requirement that the employer create additional employment. Available remedies include unlimited compensatory damages, back pay, reinstatement or front pay, benefits, reasonable attorneys' fees, court costs and a trial by jury. Punitive damages are not available. An employee is required to notify the employer in writing of his or her claim at least 30 days before filing suit in an attempt to amicably resolve the claim. La. Rev. Stat. § 23:303. An employee has one year to file suit; however, that time period is suspended for six months if the employee has filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Louisiana Commission on Human Rights. La. Rev. Stat. § 23:303.

Equal Opportunity and Non-Discrimination

Governor John Bel Edwards issued Executive Order 2016-11 on April 13, 2016, that protects state workers and contractors from being discriminated against or harassed based on their race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, political affiliation, disability or age when the employer makes hiring, promotion, tenure, recruitment, termination or compensation decisions. The Executive Order applies to state agencies, departments, offices, commissions, boards, entities, or officers of the State of Louisiana. The Executive Order is the first time the State of Louisiana has taken formal action to protect transgender workers.

Workplace Safety

The State of Louisiana requires every employer to furnish a "reasonably safe" work environment, including safety devices and anything reasonably necessary to protect the life, health, safety, and welfare of employees. La. Rev. Stat. § 23:13. Louisiana also provides specific regulations regarding (1) divers, tunnel and caisson workers, La. Rev. Stat.§§ 23:481-88; (2) air circulation and fumes, La. Rev. Stat. § 23:511; and (3) persons who work in boilers, La. Rev. Stat. §§ 23:531-545.

Retaliation

The State of Louisiana further prohibits: (1) the discharge of an employee on account of his or her political opinions, political affiliations, running for political office or voting actions for employers regularly employing 20 or more employees, La. Rev. Stat §§ 23:961-962; (2) the discharge of an employee who testifies or furnishes information during a labor investigation, La. Rev. Stat. § 23:964; (3) an employer from terminating an employee for disclosing or threatening to disclose an employment practice in violation of state law, La. Rev. Stat. § 23:967; (4) the discharge of an employee because of a voluntary assignment of a single garnishment of earnings, La. Rev. Stat. § 23:731(C); (5) the discharge of an employee because that employee is a member of any armed service or National Guard, La. Rev. Stat. § 29:404; and (6) discharge of an employee based upon a request for, or the receipt of, genetic information regarding that employee, La. Rev. Stat. § 23:368.

Minimum Age

A "minor" is defined as any person under 18 years of age. La. Civil Code art. 29. Minors under the age of 12 years are prohibited from working in any occupation. La. Rev. Stat. § 23:162. Minors under the age of 14 may only be employed where they are working under the direct supervision of a parent or legal guardian who is a partner in the business. La. Rev. Stat. § 23:162. Minors 14 and 15 years of age may be employed only in certain occupations and may only work after school and during non-school days. La. Rev. Stat. § 23:166. Minors under 16 years of age are prohibited from obtaining employment in certain occupations, depending upon the age of the minor and the occupation. La. Rev. Stat. §§ 23:161, 23:163.

Reference Immunity

An employer who provides information that is not knowingly false or deliberately misleading in response to a request from a prospective employer or a current or former employee about the employee's job performance or reasons for separation shall be immune from civil liability. La. Rev. Stat. § 23:291.

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Guide last updated July 2021.

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