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Archives - State Agencies - Department of Labor

[Constitution, Article V, Section 12; NDCC Chapter 34-05]

The office of Commissioner of Labor was created by an amendment to the North Dakota State Constitution. The Commissioner was elected to a four year term on a no-party ballot. As head of the Department of Labor, the Commissioner of Labor has responsibility for enforcement of all labor laws; mediation of labor disputes; licensing of private employment agencies and agents; registration of labor organizations in the state; regulation of child labor; compilation of labor statistics; and liaison with the US Department of Labor and other federal and state agencies. In1995, the Legislature amended state law and changed the Commissioner from elective to a gubernatorial appointee (S. L. 1995, Ch. 334). This became effective on January 1, 1999. Qualifications included being a qualified elector of the state and at least twenty-five years of age. The Department of Labor is located in the State Capitol in Bismarck.

From 1889 to 1965, the Commissioner of Agriculture and Labor had responsibility for administration of the state’s labor laws. A Division of Labor was created in 1935 (S. L. 1935, Ch. 161) within the Department of Agriculture and Labor and a Deputy Agriculture Commissioner was designated to serve as the head of the Division. In the same year the Minimum Wage Department (which regulated the work hours and set employment standards for women and minors) was transferred from the Workmen’s Compensation Bureau to the Division of Labor (S. L. 1935, Ch. 162). Legislation in 1959 and 1961 and approval of an amendment to the North Dakota State Constitution in 1960 authorized the State Legislature to create a Department of Labor. The Department of Labor was officially established in 1965 (S. L. 1965, Ch. 236) and Orville W. Hagen was elected first Commissioner of Labor in 1966 on a no-party ballot.

Legislation in 1983 (S. L. 1983, Ch.173), 1999 (S. L. 1999, Ch.134) , and 200l (S. L. 2001, Ch.145) added responsibilities to the Department concerning the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws in North Dakota. The Department administers and enforces laws governing minimum wage, child labor, resident preference, labor management relations, wage payment and collection, equal pay for equal work, employment agencies, and discrimination in employment. The Department acquires and disseminates information on labor-related subjects, and represents the state in transactions with the US Department of Labor, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, and the Veterans Administration in the matter of job training programs. The Department cooperates with other state agencies to encourage development of new industries and programs and expansion of existing ones, assist in adoption of practical methods of vocational training, retraining, and vocational guidance, and improve working and living conditions of employees. It promotes equally the welfare of both wage earners and industry, mediates labor disputes, and licenses private employment agencies and agents [NDCC 34-05-01.3]. The Department of Labor is responsible for licensing of employment agencies and issuing sub-minimum wage licenses.

The Department of Labor has two divisions, the Wage and Hours Division and the Human Rights Division. The Wage and Hours Division’s function involves wage and working conditions matters such as investigating and enforcing claims for unpaid wages, and educating the public about the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees.

The Human Rights Division is responsible for enforcing the Human Rights Act [NDCC 14-02-4] and North Dakota Housing Discrimination Act [NDCC 14-02-5]. The Division receives and investigates complaints alleging discriminatory practices in the areas of employment, housing, public services, public accommodations, and credit transactions and educates the public about the human rights law and studies the nature and extent of discrimination in the state.


1889-1965 Commissioner of Agriculture of Agriculture and Labor was responsible for administration of the state labor laws.

1919 Legislation set the maximum number of work hours for female employees (S.L. 1919, Ch. 170).

1935 Creation of Division of Labor within the Department of Agriculture and Labor and transfer of Minimum Wage Department from Workmen’s Compensation Bureau to Division of Labor.

1943 Hours extended for female employees due to the war (S.L. 1943, Ch.222).

1965 Creation of Department of Labor and election of Commissioner on a no-party ballot.

1965 Law established equal pay for men and women for equal work (S.L. 1965, Ch.258).

1983 Human Rights laws enacted (S.L.1983, Ch.173).

1993 Revision of child labor laws (S.L. 1993, Ch. 351).

1995 Legislation requires the Commissioner of Labor to be appointed by Governor (S.L. 1995, Ch. 334).

1999 Discrimination in housing practices legislation passed (S.L. 1999, Ch. 134).

1999 Discrimination about marital status legislation passed (S.L. 1999, Ch.395).

2001 Legislature passes discriminatory practices legislation (S.L. 2001, Ch. 145).


30506 Administrative Files
30507 Investigative Files
30508 Conference Committee Files
30509 Minimum Wage Files
30510 Labor Law Files
30512 Labor Organization Survey
30513 Contract Dispute Notices
30514 Labor Report
32339 Human Rights Division, Minimum Wage Hearing Records


Gray, David P. Guide to North Dakota State Archives, 1983.
North Dakota Blue Book 1995 to 2011.
North Dakota Century Code [34-01-to 34-14 and 14-02-4 and 14-02-5].
North Dakota Labor Department Website.

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