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South Dakota Employee Rights

South Dakota Employee Rights

South Dakota Employee Rights: Understanding Your Legal Protections

As an employee in South Dakota, it is crucial that you understand your legal rights and protections. The state has various laws and regulations that govern employment, ranging from minimum wage requirements to discrimination protections.

This article will provide an overview of South Dakota employee rights, including the latest updates and resources available to help you navigate these complex issues.

Minimum Wage and Overtime Laws

One of the most fundamental rights afforded to South Dakota employees is the right to receive at least the minimum wage. The state’s current minimum wage is $9.45 per hour, which came into effect on January 1, 2021. Employers are required to pay this wage to employees unless they meet certain exemptions.

In addition to minimum wage requirements, South Dakota also has overtime laws that mandate employers to pay one and a half times the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek. South Dakota follows federal overtime guidelines set by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Employment-at-Will Protections

In South Dakota, most employees are considered “at-will” employees. This means that either the employer or employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all.

However, there are some limitations to this rule. For example, an employee may not be fired for discriminatory reasons, such as race, gender, or age. Similarly, an employer may not terminate an employee for exercising their legal rights, such as filing a complaint with a state or federal agency.

Protections Against Discrimination

South Dakota’s Human Rights Act prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, gender, age, disability, or membership in any protected class. This includes discriminatory practices such as hiring, firing, or promotion decisions, as well as harassment and retaliation.

Employers are required to take steps to prevent and address discrimination in the workplace. For example, they must provide employees with a harassment-free work environment, investigate complaints of discrimination, and take appropriate disciplinary action when necessary.

There are various state and federal agencies that help employees who believe they have been the victim of discrimination. The South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) are two such agencies.

Family and Medical Leave Act

Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), eligible employees have the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for certain family- or health-related reasons. Some of the reasons for leave include:

– The birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child
– Caring for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition
– The employee’s own serious health condition

To be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months.

South Dakota does not have a state law that provides additional family and medical leave beyond the federal FMLA. However, some employers may offer more liberal leave policies than what is required by law.

Workers’ Compensation Benefits

South Dakota requires most employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance to provide coverage for employees who are injured on the job. If an employee is injured or becomes ill due to their work, they may be eligible for various benefits under the state’s workers’ compensation program, such as:

– Medical benefits, including hospital bills, doctor visits, and prescription drugs
– Wage replacement benefits, which can be up to two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly wage
– Rehabilitation services to help the employee recover and return to work

Employers must file a report with the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation within 48 hours of any work-related injury or illness. Employees who believe they may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits should contact their employer’s insurance carrier or an attorney who specializes in workers’ compensation law.

Unemployment Benefits

South Dakota’s unemployment insurance program provides temporary financial assistance to employees who have lost their job through no fault of their own. To receive unemployment benefits, employees must meet certain eligibility criteria, such as:

– Being able and available for work
– Actively seeking work
– Earning enough wages during the base period (usually the most recent four quarters) to qualify for benefits

Unemployment benefits are typically limited to 26 weeks, although this period may be extended during times of high unemployment.

Other Employee Protections

In addition to the rights and protections outlined above, South Dakota employees may have other legal rights depending on their specific employment situation. For example:

– If an employee is part of a collective bargaining agreement, they may have additional protections related to their wages, hours, and working conditions.
– Employees who report violations of the law by their employer may be protected from retaliation.
– If an employee is injured or killed on the job due to an employer’s willful or intentional actions, they or their family may be able to sue the employer for damages above and beyond workers’ compensation benefits.

Resources for Employees

If you believe that your rights as an employee have been violated, there are various government resources available to help you file a complaint or seek legal recourse. Some of these resources include:

– The South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation, which investigates wage and hour violations, discrimination complaints, and workplace safety issues.
– The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which investigates complaints of employment discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, or genetic information.
– The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which investigates safety and health complaints in the workplace and enforces safety regulations.
– Private attorneys who specialize in employment law may be able to provide legal guidance and representation for employees who have been wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, or denied benefits.


South Dakota employee rights are essential to ensure fair and safe working conditions for all workers. As an employee, it is important to understand your legal protections and know where to turn for help if your rights are violated. By being informed and proactive, you can help create a more just and equitable workplace for yourself and others.

Frequently Asked Questions about South Dakota Employee Rights

What is the minimum wage in South Dakota?

As of 2012, the minimum wage in South Dakota stands alongside the federal minimum wage at $7.25. However, it is not always against South Dakota employee rights to pay a worker less that that amount. The most famous example is in the case of an employee who regularly earns tips, in which case the minimum wage is only $2.13. Other exceptions include workers under 20, students, apprentices, and the disabled if they are able to do less work than an able-bodied individual.

Are drug tests for employees legal in South Dakota?

As of 2012, there were not any laws on the books regarding whether or not mandatory drug testing was against South Dakota employee rights. However, you can generally expect the government to lean toward allowing them in most cases.

Drug tests will almost certainly be approved if they’re standard procedure for the hiring of a new employee, or if they’re for jobs in which the safety of others is at risk, such as forklift operator. In fact, the South Dakota government actually requires drug tests itself for such jobs.

Matters become more difficult when it comes to a mandatory drug test of a single individual. If drugs are thought to be interfering with a person’s work, then a drug test may be administered. However, there does need to be a reasonable suspicion of drug use—trumped-up allegations are harassment and a violation of South Dakota employee rights.

What types of discrimination are against the law in South Dakota?

Discrimination constitutes refusing to hire someone, firing someone, or treating them unfairly because of their race, creed, religion, or sex. Age discrimination is also against federal law, but there are no specific South Dakota employee rights laws against it.

Discrimination against someone because of a disability is also illegal, but this can be harder to discern. For instance, it is illegal for a white worker paid more than a black worker of equal experience and productivity, and it is illegal for a man to be paid more than a woman under the exact same circumstances. However, since disability can affect productivity, a pay gap may be legally appropriate, as could a lay-off so that a disabled worker could be replaced with a more cost-effective worker.

What are employee privacy rights?

Employee privacy is one of the most important aspects of South Dakota employee rights. During the hiring phase, an employer will have the right to find out your arrest record or your credit report. However, in the former case the arrest record must be “substantially related” to your functions as an employee. In the later case, an employer must disclose up front that they plan on finding your credit report.

While on the job, it will not be a violation of South Dakota employee rights for employers to read their workers’ emails. However, extended phone conversations can only be listened to until the nature of the call is understood.