South Dakota Labor Law:
What's Important

South Dakota labor law states that it is an employment at will state. An employment at will state simply means that an employee or employer can terminate their employment relationship at any time with or without a reason.

However, don't act too quickly to terminate someone until you understand the entire South Dakota labor law, since there are several exceptions to the employment at will clause!

South Dakota labor law

South Dakota Labor Law: Pretty Straight Forward

If an employee or employer is covered by an employment contract, where the employee and employer are committed to a certain amount of time before they can end their employment relationship, this would supersede the employment at will clause. Another exception would be if the employee is covered under a collective bargaining agreement. This is generally referred to as a Union Contract.

Under South Dakota labor law an employer can't terminate someone for refusing to violate state or federal law. Seems like a no brainer, but I have personally be threatened in the past by an employer for not violating the law. The law does not necessarily have to be a criminal violation. The point is that there are times that an employer can lose sight of right and wrong when it costs them money to do things according to the law.

According to South Dakota labor law an employer is not permitted to terminate an employee for taking advantage of a lawful right such as filing a workers' compensation claim or an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claim. This does not mean you can't terminate them for another violation such as stealing, but I would not do so unless you have sufficient evidence of the violation. It could be viewed as retaliatory if you are not able to show enough evidence. This is always frightening for an employer when an employee files a claim for an EEO violation; however, if they have been doing something against company policy themselves you may give consideration to terminating them. In addition, an employer may not terminate an employee for serving on a jury.

South Dakota labor law is also unique in that they protect an individual that smokes, or uses any tobacco products on their own time, i.e., off duty in a location other than the workplace. Just like all the other laws there are some exceptions to this law as well. As an example, full time firefighters are one of the exceptions. If the employer has a legitimate reason for placing a requirement on an employee not to smoke at any time, they can make it a condition of employment. I would be very careful to do this without first seeking a South Dakota Labor Law Attorneys opinion.

Of course another reason that would prohibit an employer from terminating an employee is if the employer is discriminating against them. Discrimination includes reasons for color, race, creed, sex, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, or disability. Please understand that this information is not to be considered legal advice. It is merely to assist you in having an understanding of your requirements. Any and all legal questions should be presented to a South Dakota Labor Law Attorney for their professional opinion.

There is no requirement in South Dakota for an employer to provide an employee rest or meal periods. The employer has the right to make a policy for that benefit on their own. Should they decide to make a policy then they will be required to adhere to it fairly across the board. As an employer I would give great consideration to allowing your employees to rest and or enjoy a meal period depending on how many hours they work. This is important for moral and safety.

South Dakota labor law also leaves it to the employer to decide on whether they allow for vacation, sick, or holiday pay. Again, if the employer has a policy for any of these they will be required to administer those benefits fairly and consistently to their employees. However, an employer can make the policy so that only certain members 'of the organization are entitled to them, such as only full time employees with more than five years of service. Understand that you can make the policy anyway you wish provided you are not discriminating or violating any other state or federal protections.

If an employee or employer terminates an employee's relationship, the employer is required to issue the employee their final pay no later than the very next scheduled payday. An employer can without pay if the employee has company owned property that must be returned.

Again, please remember to consult with a South Dakota Labor Law Attorney to insure that you are complying with the Labor Law of South Dakota. It will be much less expensive to do that than it will be to defend a position where you violated the labor law.

Thank you and may God bless you!