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Discipline and termination
Are there state-specific laws on the procedures employers must follow with regard to discipline and grievance procedures?
No state-specific laws on this topic apply to private employers.
At-will or notice
At-will status and/or notice period?
New Hampshire, like most other states, recognizes the at-will employment doctrine. The general rule is that in the absence of an employment contract for a definite term, either the employer or employee may terminate employment at any time for any reason not prohibited by law, with or without notice. Employers that wish to preserve the at-will status should be careful not to require employees to provide any specified amount of notice of resignation, since this would be inconsistent with the at-will rule (i.e., that either party can terminate the relationship with or without notice).
What restrictions apply to the above?
Exceptions to the at-will rule are extensive. In addition to anti-discrimination statutes, New Hampshire recognizes the common law claim of wrongful discharge when a former employee proves that:
- his or her discharge from employment was motivated by bad faith or malice, or was based on retaliation; and
- the discharge was contrary to a public policy.
What constitutes a public policy is typically the focus of wrongful discharge cases in New Hampshire. The federal district court for New Hampshire denied an employer’s motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff’s wrongful discharge claim, finding that a rational jury could find that, among other things, public policy encouraged the plaintiff to complain to her managers that their changes to training and staffing procedures had endangered patient safety (Grivois v. Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, Civil No. 12-CV-131-JL, Opinion No. 2014 DNH 017 (Jan. 28 2014)). However, an employee’s disagreement over an internal management decision or established company practice usually will not constitute a matter of public policy (Bourque v. Town of Bow, 736 F. Supp. 398 (D.N.H. 1990); Short v. Administrative Unit No. 16, No. 88-226 (N.H. Aug. 14 1992)).
New Hampshire also has its own whistleblower protection statute. Employers are prohibited from terminating employees or otherwise retaliating against them because the employee reported what he or she reasonably believed was a violation of any law or rule or refused to engage in any conduct that he or she reasonably believed was a violation of law (RSA Ch. 275-E). Before bringing a claim to the New Hampshire Department of Labor under this statute, the employee must show that he or she first made a reasonable effort to maintain or restore his or her rights through any grievance procedure or similar process available at such employee's place of employment. An employee may also sue an employer in court for violation of the statute.
New Hampshire enacted the Paycheck Fairness Act of 2014, which prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against employees for disclosing their pay information to other employees. In addition, this law prohibits employers from requiring employees to agree to refrain from disclosing such information. The act became effective on January 1 2015.
Are there state-specific rules on when final paychecks are due after termination?
Yes. Employees who are discharged by the employer must be paid all wages earned within 72 hours of discharge. Employees who voluntarily resign must be paid all wages no later than the next regular payday, unless the employee provides at least one pay period’s notice of his or her intention to quit; in such cases, the employer must pay all wages within 72 hours of the resignation date. Employees who are laid off by the employer must be paid all wages no later than the next regular payday (RSA 275:44).
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