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Quick and Easy Guide to Labor & Employment Law: Utah

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 Utah.

At-Will Employment

Utah is an employment-at-will state, which means that, in the absence of a written employment agreement or a collective bargaining agreement, either the employer or employee may terminate employment for any reason that is not contrary to law. (Touchard v. La-Z-Boy Inc., 148 P.3d 945, 948 (Utah 2006)).

Utah recognizes exceptions for a wrongful discharge claim when an employee's termination clearly violates public policy, including:

Right-to-Work Law

Under Utah law, private and public employees cannot be denied or diminished employment on the basis of membership or non-membership in a labor union, organization, or any other type of association. Utah Code § 34-34-4.

Immigration Verification

Utah's E-Verify law requires Utah employers with 150 or more workers to enroll in E-Verify. Utah Code § 13-47-201.

Drug Testing

The Utah Drug and Alcohol Testing Act (UDATA) governs pre-employment and employment drug and alcohol testing. The UDATA applies to all private employers in Utah. Utah Code § 34-38-2(4). Generally, employers may, but are not required, to test employees for drugs and alcohol if they comply with the UDATA. Employers that comply with the UDATA are protected from certain liability claims. Utah Code § 34-38-3. To comply with the UDATA, employers must:

  • Periodically test employers and management for drugs and alcohol. Utah Code § 34-38-3(1). Notably, however, the UDATA does not specify the frequency or circumstances for testing managers.
  • Have a written drug- or alcohol-testing policy that it distributes to employees and makes available for review by prospective employees. Utah Code § 34-38-7(1). Within the terms of this policy, an employer may require drug testing for: (a) investigation of possible individual employee impairment; (b) investigation of workplace accidents or theft; (c) maintenance of safety for employees or the general public; or (d) maintenance of productivity, quality of products or services, or security of property or information.
  • Not rely on inaccurate results to take action against an employee in bad faith. Utah Code § 34-38-10(2).

Under the UDATA, any drug or alcohol testing must occur either during or immediately after the employee's regular work period, be deemed work time for compensation purposes, and be paid for by the employer. Utah Code § 34-38-5.

Of note, medical marijuana is legal in Utah, but the Utah Medical Cannabis Act does not address employment implications.

Jury Duty Leave

Under Utah law, an employer is not required to pay an employee for time spent responding to a jury summons or serving on a jury. Utah Code § 78B-1-116. However, an employer may not discharge, threaten, take any adverse employment action, or otherwise coerce an employee because the employee receives and/or responds to a summons, serves as a juror, or attends court for prospective jury. Id.

Utah law also does not allow employers to require or request an employee to use annual, vacation, or sick leave for time spent responding to a summons for jury duty, participating in the jury selection process, or actually serving on a jury. Id.

Subpoena

An employer may not terminate, threaten, or otherwise coerce an employee regarding their employment because the employee attends a deposition or hearing in response to a subpoena. Utah Code § 78B-1-132(1).

Military Leave

Any member of a reserve component of the U.S. armed forces who, pursuant to military orders, enters active duty, active duty for training, inactive duty training, or state active duty shall, upon request, be granted a leave of absence from employment for no more than five years. Upon satisfactory release from the training or from hospitalization incidental to the training, the employee shall be permitted to return to their prior employment with the seniority, status, pay, and vacation they would have had as an employee if they had not been absent for military purposes. Utah Code § 39-1-36.

Voting Leave

Utah law requires an employer to provide an employee with up to two hours paid time off to vote if the employee does not have three or more consecutive off-duty hours in which to vote while polls are open. Utah Code § 20A-3a-105. An employer may require an employee to request voting leave at least one day before the election. An employer may dictate when an employee may take paid voting leave, but an employer must grant an employee's request to take voting leave either beginning or ending of the employee's shift. Id.

Parental Leave

The State of Utah does not require an employer to offer parental leave to its employees. However, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide qualifying employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for specified medical or family reasons under certain circumstances.

Vacation, Sick, and Bereavement Leave

Utah laws does not require private employers to provide employees with vacation, bereavement, or sick leave, either paid or unpaid. If an employer chooses to provide such benefits, it must comply with the terms of its established policy or employment contract. Utah Admin. Code R610-3-4. However, employers are still subject to the federal Family Medical Leave Act and its requirements.

Smoking Laws

The Utah Indoor Clean Air Act (UICAA) prohibits the use of cigarettes and e-cigarettes in indoor places of public access, including workplaces, subject to a few limited exceptions. Specifically, smoking is prohibited in "any enclosed indoor place of business, commerce, banking, financial service[,] or other service-related activity, whether publicly or privately owned." Utah Code § 26-38-2(2). Smoking is also not permitted in a "workplace that is not a place of public access or a publicly owned building or office but has one or more employees who" do not own the business. Id.

The following workplaces are exempt from the ban on smoking: an owner-operated business that has no employees, other than the owner, as long as the public usually don't enter the area; smoking areas in Salt Lake City International Airport; smoking rooms in hotels/motels; hookah bars; and retail locations that generate at least 75 percent of their gross revenues from the sale of e-cigarettes. Utah Code § 26-38-3(2). Employers are not required to provide designated smoking areas in Utah.

Utah Antidiscrimination Act (UAA)

The UAA prohibits employment discrimination based on: race, color, sex, pregnancy, childbirth, pregnancy-related conditions, age, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Utah Code §34A-5-106(1)(a)(i). The UAA applies to employers with 15 or more employees within the state for each working day in each of the 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year. Covered employers may not do any of the following based on a protected status: refuse to hire or promote, discharge, demote, terminate, retaliate against, harass, or discriminate against regarding compensation or terms, privileges, and conditions of employment. Finally, employers may not retaliate against an employee or applicant who opposes an employment practice prohibited by the UAA or files a charge, testifies, assists, or participates in a proceeding, investigation, or hearing under the UAA.

Break Time to Express Milk

The UAA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and related conditions unless the accommodation would create an undue hardship on the employer's operations. Utah Code § 34A-5-106 (1)(g).

Employers are also prohibited from requiring an employee to terminate her employment if an alternative reasonable accommodation may be provided for the employee's pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or related conditions unless the requested accommodation would create an undue hardship on the employer's operations. Utah Code § 34A-5-106 (1)(g). An employer is also prohibited from denying employment opportunities to an employee because it would be required to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or related conditions, unless the accommodations would create an undue hardship. Id. Employers are required to post, in a conspicuous place at the worksite and/or include in the employee handbook, written notice of employees' rights to reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or related conditions. Utah Code § 34A-5-106(1)(e).

Employment of Minors

Utah does not require employers to provide breaks, including lunch breaks, for workers 18 years old or older.

For employees under 18, employers are required to provide a meal period of at least 30 minutes for any employee scheduled to work more than five hours. If any employee, regardless of age, cannot be completely relieved of all duties and permitted to leave the work station or area during the meal period, the meal period must be paid as time worked. Utah Admin. Code R610-2-3.

Employers must provide a paid rest break of at least 10 minutes to employees under the age of 18 for every three-hour period or part thereof that is worked. Utah Admin. Code R610-2-3.

Minimum Wage, Overtime, and Wage Recordkeeping

Utah has set minimum wage for non-exempt employees at not less than $7.25 per hour. Utah Code § 34-40-103; Utah Admin. Code R610-1-3. Utah does not have overtime requirements except for employees working on public works projects. For more information about overtime requirements under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), visit https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/flsa. A state employee who works overtime will be paid overtime either by either taking time off work at the rate of one and one-half times their normal pay rate or by being paid one and one-half times their normal pay. Utah Code Ann. § 63A-17-502(3)(b).

Employers must keep payroll records of employees covered by the Utah Minimum Wage Act showing names, addresses, dates of birth, hours worked, and wages paid. Utah Code § 34-40-201. Employers must maintain these records for three years. Id.

Employers must keep a true and accurate record of time worked and wages paid to employees working on an hourly or a daily basis. Utah Code § 34-28-10. Employers must keep the records on file for at least one year. Utah Code § 34-28-10.

Employees must be paid at least semi-monthly and on days to be designated in advance by the employer as a regular payday. Utah Code § 34-28-3(1)(a). Upon an employee's hire, employers must inform the employee of the day and place of payment, of the rate of pay, and of any change with respect to any of these items prior to the time of the change. Alternatively, the employer may give such notification by posting these facts and keeping them conspicuously posted at or near the place of work where such notice can be seen by each employee as the employee comes or goes to the employee's place of work. Utah Code § 34-28-4(1).

On each payday, the employer must give the employee a written or electronic pay statement that states the employee's name; employee's base rate of pay; dates of the pay period for which the individual is being paid; if paid hourly, number of hours the employee worked during the pay period; amount of and reason for any money withheld in accordance with state or federal law, including state and federal income tax, Social Security tax, Medicare tax; and court-ordered withholdings; and the total amount paid to the employee for that pay period. Utah Code § 34-28-3(5)(a).

Final Payments

Utah law requires employers to pay employees who are terminated or laid off from employment their unpaid wages within 24 hours after the time of separation. Utah Code § 34-28-5(1). An employer meets the 24-hour time frame if the employer either (1) mails the wages to the employee, and the envelope that contains the wages is postmarked with a date that is no more than one day after the day on which the employer separates the employee from the employer's payroll; or (2) within 24 hours after the employer separates the employee from the employer's payroll, the employer initiates a direct deposit of the wages into the employee's account or hand-delivers the wages to the employee. Utah Code § 34-28-5(1).

If an employer fails to pay wages due an employee within 24 hours after the employee has provided a written demand, the employer is required to continue to pay the employee wages from the date of demand until paid, up to 60 days, at the same rate that the employee received at the time of separation. Utah Code § 34-28-5(1). An employee may recover the owed wages by pursuing a civil action within 60 days from the date of separation. However, if the employee fails to make a written demand on the employer for the employee's final payment of wages, the employee may not recover the penalty provided for under the statute. Utah Code § 34-28-5(1)(c).

Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment insurance benefits provide income to individuals who have lost work through no fault of their own. These 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. Unemployment benefits are administered by the State Department of Labor, and additional information regarding the benefits may be accessed at jobs.utah.gov/ui/home.

Workers' Compensation

The Utah Workers' Compensation Act applies to every employer in Utah that regularly employs one or more workers or operatives in the same business, or in or about the same establishment, under an oral or written contract of hire. Utah Code § 34A-2-103(2)(a). This includes independent contractors; a client under a professional employer organization agreement; any sole proprietorship, corporation, partnership, limited liability company, or similar organization that procures work to be done by a contractor; or the client of a labor service or temp agency that employs loaned workers. Utah Code § 34A-2-103(2), (3)(a), (7).

The right to recover compensation under the Workers' Compensation Act is the exclusive remedy against the employer and against any officer, agent, or employee of the employer. Utah Code Ann. § 34A-2-105(1). Therefore, an action at law may not be maintained against an employer or against any officer, agent, or employee of the employer based upon an accident, injury, or death of an employee. Utah Code Ann. § 34A-2-105(1).

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 Act. Under the Act, a workplace injury must be promptly reported to the employer; failure to promptly report an injury may result in a denial of benefits. The Act is administered by the State Board of Workers' Compensation, and additional information regarding the Act may be accessed at insurance.utah.gov/consumer/other/workers-comp.

Child Labor

The legal age to work in Utah is 14 years old. Utah child labor laws state that children who are 14 years of age may work in non-hazardous jobs like retail sales, restaurant work, or office work. Utah Code § 34-23-201. Minors (under age 18) may not be employed in any hazardous occupation, except as authorized by the Utah Antidiscrimination and Labor Division (UALD) when the minor is under careful supervision in connection with or after completion of an apprentice program, vocational training, or rehabilitation program as approved by the UALD. Id.

Employers cannot require minors under the age of 16 to work during school hours, more than four hours before and after school hours, more than eight hours in a 24-hour period, or between 9:30 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., unless the next day is not a school day. Utah Code § 34-23-202. Minors under the age of 16 are not permitted to work more than 40 hours in a week. Id. Utah no longer has restrictions on maximum working hours for minors aged 16 and 17.

Gun Laws

Under Utah law, private employers cannot establish, maintain, or enforce any policy or rule that prohibits a person with a valid concealed handgun license from storing the firearm or ammunition in the person's privately owned motor vehicle parked in a permitted location on the employer's property. An employer may require that employees lock firearms and ammunition in the trunk, glove box, or another enclosed compartment or container within the privately owned vehicle. Utah Code § 34-45-103. An exemption to this law applies to Utah school premises, government entities, and religious organizations. Utah Code § 34-45-107.

Discriminatory/Prohibited Employment Practices

An employer may not refuse to hire, promote, discharge, demote, or terminate an employee or applicant based on race, color, sex, pregnancy-related conditions, age (if individual is older than 40), religion, national origin disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. An employer also may not retaliate against an employee or applicant on such a basis. Utah Code Ann. § 34A-5-106(1)(a)(i).

Post-Employment Restrictive Covenants

An employer and employee may enter into a post-employment restrictive covenant as long as the period of the covenant does not exceed one year. Utah Code Ann. § 34-51-201. A violation of this period makes the entire covenant void. Id.

COVID-19

A government entity may not require an individual to receive an emergency COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment. Utah Code Ann. § 26-68-102(3)(b)(i).

Job Reference Immunity

An employer that, in good faith, provides information about the job performance, professional conduct, or evaluation of a former or current employee to a prospective employer of that employee, at the request of the prospective employer, may not be held civilly liable for the disclosure or the consequences of providing the information. Utah Code § 34-42-1(a). Employers are presumed to be acting in good faith in providing references.

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Guide last updated October 2022.

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