New Mexico

The border state of New Mexico has had the good fortune to escape the recent economic downturn relatively unscathed – at least as compared to states like Michigan and Pennsylvania. With a total population of just under 2 million (per a 2008 census) and an area of over 120,000 square miles, New Mexico is one of the least population dense states in the nation. It generates around $76 billion a year and collects a sizable income stream from tourism. The US federal government spends a significant amount in the state on military facilities. National resources exploration and production generate around $8 billion per year for the state’s coffers.

The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions handles the state’s various employment matters, including:

  1. Discrimination. A long list of protected statuses in the state and country includes race, gender, religion, national origin, disability, and age. When employers use such characteristics to make determinations regarding whether to hire, promote, or assign specific duties to these individuals, they violate the law.
  2. Sexual harassment. Each New Mexico worker has the right to a workplace free of hostile or degrading environments. When managers or coworkers deprive them of this right by engaging in inappropriate behaviors such as joking, coercing, or repeated unwanted advances, the Department can provide recourse.
  3. Time and compensation issues. Employers must pay workers their entitled wages. The law can punish companies for misclassifying workers, tampering with timecards, or denying workers earned overtime.
  4. FLSA violations. Certain events in a worker’s life can entitle him or her to 12 weeks of paid or unpaid leave, during which the employer may not terminate his or her employment. These circumstances include the birth or adoption of a child, dealing with a severe illness, or caring for a severely ill family member.

Per New Mexico House Bill 1280 (the directive that established this agency), the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions works to deliver employee training, provide labor market information, build and advertise programs, and bring business and labor leaders together to find common solutions.

New Mexico’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau (OHSB) regulates safe working conditions and operates under the auspices of the state’s Environmental Department. It enforces national and state OSHA regulations, conducts inspections onsite, and handles employee and employer complaints about compliance. OHSB offers training for employers and performs consulting services as well.

Since the Federal government employs so many New Mexicans, jurisdictional issues over workplace violations often arise. For instance, state employees at the federally-run Kirtland Air Force Base may wonder whether to seek help from state or federal labor advocacy organizations. To determine jurisdiction for discrimination, wage and hour, harassment, and retaliation matters, it’s a good idea to speak with an attorney.

Generally, if a violation has been egregious, it will likely be illegal according to both New Mexico and federal anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws. However, the best way to determine jurisdiction may be to speak with a New Mexico employment attorney. A lawyer with a thorough understanding of state and national regulations can help you determine how to proceed.

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