In 1889, the North Dakota Constitution created the Department of Agriculture and Labor. In the 1960 primary election, voters approved a constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to establish a Department of Labor separate from the Department of Agriculture. In 1965, the legislature created the Department of Labor. The departmentís functions at that time consisted of establishing and enforcing standards for wages and working conditions in the state.
In 1983, the state legislature enacted North Dakota Century Code (N.D.C.C.) ch. 14-02.4, the North Dakota Human Rights Act, authorizing the Department of Labor to investigate complaints alleging discriminatory employment practices. In 1999, the state legislature added to the departmentís human rights responsibilities when it enacted N.D.C.C. ch. 14-02.5, the North Dakota Housing Discrimination Act, which authorized the department to investigate complaints of discriminatory housing practices. In 2000, the Human Rights Division was established within the Department of Labor.
Additional amendments to the Human Rights Act were passed in 2001 authorizing the departmentís Human Rights Division to investigate and enforce complaints of discrimination in public accommodations, public services, advertising for public accommodations or services, and credit transactions. In 2009, the Legislative Assembly amended and reenacted portions of the Public Employees Relations Act under N.D.C.C. ch. 34-11.1, providing that the Department of Labor receive complaints and attempt voluntary compliance relating to N.D.C.C. ß 34-11.1-04. In 2013, the legislature passed a bill which changed the name of the department from the Department of Labor to the Department of Labor and Human Rights to accurately reflect the scope of the department.
From its inception until 1998, the Department of Labor and Human Rights was administered by a Commissioner who was elected on a no-party ballot to a term of four years. In 1995, the Legislative Assembly passed legislation making the Commissioner of Labor an appointee of the Governor effective January 1, 1999, or upon the vacancy of the office. The stateís last elected Commissioner, Craig Hagen, resigned his office in August 1998. Since that time, the Commissioner of Labor has served at the pleasure of the Governor and is a member of the Governorís Cabinet.
The current Commissioner of Labor is Bonnie L. Storbakken.