Human rights violations can occur in the New Mexico workplace under a variety of situations and may require taking one or more legal actions which are unique to both federal and state laws. While many may first think of a law suit or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the New Mexico Administrative code establishes a state agency for hearing workplace rights violation complaints as well. In practice, the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions through the Human Rights Bureau and the New Mexico Human Rights Commission administer investigations, conciliatory processes, and hearings for matters affecting New Mexico employers and employees.
What type of human rights can be subject to New Mexico workplace harassment?
The subject matter of workplace human rights in New Mexico and/or under the EEOC may cover forms of discrimination in some of the following areas: age; ancestry; color; gender identity; genetic information; mental or physical handicap; national origin; pregnancy; race; religion; retaliation for filing charges of discrimination; serious medical conditions; sex; sexual orientation; and spousal affiliation.
Time is a factor for filing
Both the EEOC and the DWS have filing deadlines related to when the discrimination actually occurred. The EEOC deadline can range from 45 days to 300 days depending upon the complainants’ place of employment and the category of discrimination.
The DWS deadlines can also range up to 300 days, and include further complications after the initial complaint filing such as a 60-day time limit to file a hearing waiver to move the case to a state or federal district court. It is also important to note that complaints can be filed to both the EEOC and the DWS for the same potential harassment situation.
The complaints initiate a multistage process within the agencies
Human rights and harassment complaints initiate an investigation process where the agency will attempt to gather information from each of the involved parties to build a body of facts about the situation. A finding or investigation report can be made based on those facts which can lead to legal action against a party, dismissal of the complaint or initiate a mediation/conciliation process to bring the parties together to work through the issues. The mediation or conciliation processes may occur early in the complaint filing process, at the end of an investigation or even as the result of a formal agency or court hearing in these employment law cases.
A formal hearing is often a next step after an investigation, and can involve both parties, their legal representation and/or witnesses in person, by telephone or some combination thereof before a hearing officer or judge. A hearing may also open with different stipulations; some may rely on previous hearings’ facts or investigation reports, while others may require the parties to completely present their side anew.
After or within the appropriate deadline prior to an administrative hearing, a complaint may be moved to a federal or state court. Once within the court system, the case could potentially progress from district to circuit or appellate courts if a party did not agree with the initial court’s decision and took the proper steps to file for reconsideration or appeal.
Due to the potential concerns for complex definitions of harassment, timeliness of filing processes, and potential for involvement of multiple agencies or court systems, it can be beneficial to contact legal representation whether you are an employee who feels your rights have been violated or an employer seeking help in defense or education about New Mexico human rights.