NMCLP advocates for robust enforcement of wage and anti-retaliation protections. Workers who have been unpaid or underpaid face significant obstacles in getting the money they are owed. Employers often retaliate against workers who complain of unlawful activity. Most low-wage New Mexicans rely on government agencies to enforce their rights—agencies that too frequently have failed to effectively enforce the wage laws.
In partnership with workers and worker organizing groups, we reached a groundbreaking class settlement agreement stopping the state’s illegal rejection of wage complaints. The agreement ensures the state will carry out its duty to enforce New Mexico’s anti-wage theft laws and hold employers accountable when they violate these laws by creating a wage claim investigations manual, training state workers, and providing services to workers in the language they speak. This includes a comprehensive manual for the state to use to guide wage theft enforcement. As a result of the settlement, thousands of New Mexicans are now able to recover lost wages and the case will not be dismissed until the state is in full compliance with the settlement. We continue to advocate for the Legislature to provide adequate resources to the Department of Workforce Solutions to investigate wage claims and enforce the law. Wage claimants can find information about the filing procedure on the Labor Relations Division website.
The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, numerous partners, and workers across the state successfully fought for guaranteed paid sick leave for New Mexico workers.
The new law, which allows workers to earn one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, went into effect July 2022.. Workers will no longer be forced to make the impossible choice between a paycheck and their health or the health of their children. Many workers in unincorporated parts of Bernalillo County have the right to earn and use paid leave for any reason.
People should be able to earn a living without putting their health and safety at risk. If they are injured at work, their employers should be accountable.
Workers’ compensation laws require employers to have insurance to cover job-related injuries or illnesses; however, for decades New Mexico’s agricultural workers were excluded from these protections. In 2016, NMCLP represented workers who won a landmark court decision that found their exclusion from workers’ compensation was discriminatory and violated the state constitution. We work with community partners to ensure agricultural employees can exercise their right to receive workers’ compensation and continue to monitor remaining barriers.
Agricultural work is especially hazardous. Yet, farm workers face significant obstacles getting the health and safety protections guaranteed by law. Agricultural employers often do not provide adequate shade, sufficient bathroom breaks, training on hazardous pesticides, adequate tools, and other legally mandated measures that protect workers from injury. During the Covid-19 pandemic, farm workers reported their employers failed to provide minimal health and safety protections to prevent the spread of Covid-19, including face masks and minimal social distancing requirements.
As a founding member of the New Mexico Coalition of Agricultural Workers and Advocates (NM CAWA), NMCLP works with community organizations to advocate for and provide resources to New Mexico farm workers and their families including:
There is nothing more important than taking care of New Mexico’s children, elders, and family members with disabilities. But historically, the work has not been given the value it deserves and domestic workers have been left out of many labor protections.
In New Mexico, domestic workers experience some of the worst wages and working conditions. They are excluded from workers’ compensation and workplace safety protections even though many of them do hazardous work. They are also excluded from the federal law protecting workers who join together to assert their rights. Workers in rural areas spend long stretches of time traveling between their employers’ homes without being paid for that time or expense.
NMCLP provides policy advocacy and legal research to support domestic workers organizing to improve their working conditions and economic security. In 2019, NMCLP partnered with the New Mexico Caregivers Coalition and El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos to successfully advocate for an end to domestic workers’ exclusion from New Mexico minimum wage and other wage protections.
New Mexicans work hard to provide for their families. If workers lose their jobs through no fault of their own, most rely on unemployment insurance (UI) benefits as their only source of income. Unfortunately, systemic barriers in New Mexico’s UI program prevent many workers from accessing the benefits.
NMCLP works with unemployed New Mexicans and community-based organizations to advocate for the state to eliminate barriers and fairly administer UI benefits. We provide information and training on UI applicant rights and advocate with partners for improvements.
NMCLP and partners, including the New Mexico Asian Family Center, filed a civil rights complaint challenging the failure to translate the UI application into Spanish and other languages and for the lack of access to interpreters. In 2020, a settlement was entered between the US Department of Labor Office for Civil Rights and the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions requiring the agency to develop a language access plan and to translate the application into Spanish and Vietnamese.
Everyone who works for a living should be able to raise a family and pay their bills. After a long and challenging fight, and a decade of stagnant wages, hard working New Mexicans finally got a raise in 2020. Workers from across New Mexico successfully mobilized for a minimum wage increase in 2019.
In 2021, workers successfully fought to eliminate exemptions from the higher state minimum wage for youth. The current minimum wage is $11.50 an hour and will increase next year to $12 an hour. The new more inclusive minimum wage directly impacts 150,000 workers in our state—nearly 20% of the workforce. NMCLP will monitor the increase to ensure employers are implementing the law fairly.
Despite New Mexico having some of the strongest wage laws in the country, some workers are excluded from these basic wage guarantees. NMCLP works with partners to end discriminatory exclusions that leave dairy workers, packers, and other agricultural workers out of these fundamental protections.
In 2019, NMCLP supported workers and worker organizing groups to help pass legislation that ended the outdated and discriminatory exclusion of domestic and home care workers from our state wage law. As a result, tens of thousands of workers who do some of the hardest and most important work like caring for others’ loved ones and cleaning houses are included in New Mexico’s minimum wage standards and other wage protections.