South Dakota

Sparsely populated South Dakota (home to just over 800,000 people according to a 2008 census) brings in around $32.3 billion in GDP annually. Most of the state’s business comes from the agriculture and service sectors, so it’s unsurprising (but still noteworthy) that South Dakota has weathered the recent economic downturn with relative ease. In October 2008, when the most of the nation was in free fall thanks to the banking crisis, South Dakota had a low jobless rate of just over 3%. SD’s farms produce an abundance of soybeans, corn, and wheat. Cattle and pig farming is also big business here. The eastern half of the state (east of the Missouri River) produces the lion’s share of South Dakota’s agricultural output. The western half attracts a tremendous amount of tourism – particularly to the Black Hills Mountains and Mount Rushmore.

The South Dakota Division of Human Rights – founded in 1972 as part of the state’s Human Relations Act – handles employment matters related to:

  • Discrimination. Per the HRA, the law prohibits South Dakota employers from discriminating on the basis of gender, ancestry, color, creed, religion, national origin, race, and physical or mental disability. They may not use any of these factors to treat an employee differently from his or her colleagues, except to provide an accommodation to help him or her perform a job effectively.
  • Harassment. Workers and managers cannot subject their colleagues or subordinates to repeated unwanted sexual advances, inappropriate language or jokes, or other forms of sexual harassment. Employers who encourage or allow such behavior can face serious sanctions and forced compensation to victims.
  • Retaliation. Anti-retaliation laws allow employees to pursue justice, if they believe their employers punished them for speaking out about potential harassment, discrimination or wage and hour violations at the workplace. Employers may not respond to such complaints with punitive measures, such as layoffs, demotions, or decreased work hours.

Division of Human Rights offers information to citizens and workers, provides training for employers, protects members of labor unions, and enforces measures.

When an individual files a complaint with the division, first the complaint is investigated. If a case has merit, the division may intervene to mediate and fix damage already done. If voluntary settlements cannot be reached, the DHR can hold public hearings and issue orders to force employers to come into line with good practices. The Division of Human Rights is based out of South Dakota’s capital, Pierre, and offers its services free to the public.

South Dakotans have had a long, tumultuous, and complicated relationship with the Native American tribes who once claimed the land as their domain. Rates of unemployment among the tribes are higher than the state average. Members of Native American tribes often have trouble finding work outside reservations; and even when they can find these jobs, they can encounter mistrust, harassment, and national origin discrimination.

If you would like an outside legal opinion about a potential South Dakota employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation, or racial discrimination matter, a local qualified employment law attorney can help. Contact a South Dakota employment attorney today to discuss your legal options.

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