Employment Law in North Carolina
If you have suffered treatment from an employer in North Carolina that violates employment laws, learning more about the law can help. Hiring an employment law attorney can best help you navigate the process, and increase the chances of winning your case.
What Is Employment Law?
Employment law covers the rights, responsibilities, and obligations within the employer-employee relationship. Employment lawyers serve both employees and employers, though they generally focus their practice on serving one or the other. Regardless of who their clients are, their goal is to present a solid case and defend them.
Understanding Employment Law Labor Rights in North Carolina
Employees have a wide range of rights that employers cannot violate. If employers violate these rights, workers can file a complaint against them. Each state has unique labor laws and some also make provisions for qualifying independent contractors. Below are the most common topics covered in employment law across the country.
Wage and Hour Laws
Laws protect non-exempt employees from being forced to work for low wages and a certain amount of hours without increased pay. These are the wage and hour laws. They outline the minimum wages an employee can earn as well as the maximum amount of hours worked before qualifying employees should get paid overtime.
North Carolina, like every other state, has unique wage and hour laws. However, there are federal laws in place that are minimum requirements for all states. For example, the federal minimum wage is $7.25, but most states exceed that amount.
The Fair Labor Standards Act states that non-exempt employees can only work 40 hours per week at their regular wage rates. If they exceed that number, the employer must pay them overtime rates at a minimum of time and a half. Some states also require weekend overtime pay, holiday pay, and overtime for working more than a certain number of hours each day.
The North Carolina Minimum Wage is currently $7.25 per hour, in line with the federal legal minimum. Additionally, a North Carolina employer must pay at least $2.13 per hour to tipped employees. This is permitted as long as each employee receives enough tips to get them to $7.25 per hour. However, the state has proposed legislation HB612 that would increase the minimum wage in the state to $15 by 2023. For tipped employees, the 2021 rate would increase over the next two years to $9.50 in 2023.
If you’ve been injured on the job in North Carolina, you might be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. This includes payments for lost wages and past or future medical bills that resulted from your workplace injury.
In order to be eligible for workers’ compensation, you must meet these requirements:
- You must be an employee.
- You must have a work-related illness or injury.
- Your employer must carry workers’ comp insurance.
- You must meet the deadline for filing workers’ comp claims.
There are, however, exceptions to these requirements that may still make you eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. However, if your employer is denying you benefits, you should contact an experienced North Carolina attorney for assistance with your case.
Termination Rights under North Carolina Employment Law
If you live in an at-will state, or your employment is “at-will,” you can be terminated from your job without notice and without cause. However, even at-will employees have rights when it comes to termination. A violation of those rights can be wrongful termination.
Here are some reasons your termination might be wrongful even if you are an at-will employee:
- Written promises or contracts
- Implied promises
- Violations of public policy
- Breaches of good faith and fair dealing
- Workplace retaliation
- Whistleblowing violations
North Carolina has been a right-to-work state since 1947. This statute makes a closed shop illegal. This means union membership cannot be made a condition of employment. As well, the law prohibits the mandatory collection of union dues by employers.
North Carolina is also an at-will state. This means an employer can discharge an employee at the will of the employer for any reason or no reason at all. Similarly, an employee can quit for any reason or no reason at all. Keep in mind, an employer cannot fire an employer for an illegal reason, such as discrimination under the law.
If you believe your termination was wrongful due to the above circumstances, then contact a qualified North Carolina employment law attorney right away. This is because there are time constraints on how long you can wait to file a claim.
If you’ve lost your job, you can file for unemployment benefits with the state unemployment agency. The agency will either approve or deny your claim. If it’s approved, you’ll receive monthly unemployment checks and benefits in the mail after filing weekly unemployment claims. Still, unemployment claims can be denied for a number of reasons, including:
- If you were fired for misconduct.
- You voluntarily quit your job.
- You do not have enough earnings during the work period.
If your claim is denied, then you can appeal the decision if you think it’s the wrong choice. Working with an experienced North Carolina attorney during the appeal process can improve your chances of winning the case.
Paid and Unpaid Time Off
Additionally, some states require paid time off as well as medical and family leave for employees. Oftentimes, this is combined into one singular paid time off, (PTO), amount. Laws can vary state-to-state, but typically PTO is accrued over time and you’ll get a set amount of PTO days per year.
Some states have laws that force the employer to pay for unused PTO. If you are not given proper PTO or your employer doesn’t follow your state’s medical or family leave laws, you can file a complaint.
North Carolina does not currently have state laws requiring employers to provide employees with sick leave. However, the state has introduced legislation to address this deficiency. WCNC reports that North Carolina’s Paid Family Leave Insurance Act would ensure that all North Carolinians receive up to 12 weeks leave for things like caring for a newborn or a sick loved one. Additionally, under the North Carolina Healthy Families & Workplaces Act, employees would earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked.
Child Labor Laws
Child labor laws are a lot more strict than regular labor laws and require employers to be extra careful when scheduling minors. Each state has its own child labor laws that outline the number of hours a minor can work per week. These include how often they should have breaks, how many days in a row they can work, and how late they can work each night.
The North Carolina Wage and Hour Act dictates restrictions regarding youth employment in the state. For example, 14 and 15-year-olds may only work outside school hours, and a 30-minute break is required after five consecutive hours of work. As well, employers must obtain a Youth Employment Certificate from the employed minor before work may commence.
Furthermore, the Act lists 17 hazardous occupations in which no youth under the age of 18 may be employed. The types of occupations include coal mining, logging, sawmilling, and exposure to radioactive substances. Keep in mind, farm work is completely exempt from any of the provisions of The Act.
North Carolina Employment Anti Discrimination Laws
A collection of federal anti-discrimination laws protect workers from employment discrimination. Following are brief descriptions of some of these anti-discrimination acts:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act: Prohibits employers from selecting job applicants and employees based on race, religion, color, sex, and national origin.
- Age Discrimination Act: Prohibits discrimination based on age for employees over the age of 40 years old.
- Pregnancy Discrimination Act: Prohibits employers from discriminating based on pregnancy, childbirth, or a related condition.
- Americans with Disabilities Act: Prohibits employers from discriminating against people with disabilities at any time during the application or hiring process or once the person holds the job.
- Equal Pay Act: Requires employers to give men and women equal pay for equal work.
If a coworker, employer, or client sexually harasses someone in the workplace; the employee has a set of rights to protect them from further harassment. Laws also offer protection from retaliation, such as getting fired for reporting a manager. If you or someone you know is being sexually harassed in the workplace, report it to your HR department.
In addition to federal laws, The North Carolina Equal Employment Practices Act protects North Carolina employees from discrimination based on sex. The Act also recognizes the legal claims of emotional distress and civil battery in sexual harassment cases. However, North Carolina does not have a state agency that enforces discrimination claims. As a result, a lot of cases are handled through the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The federal statute of limitations deadline to file with the EEOC is 180 days from the date of the harassment.
Work With an Experienced North Carolina Employment Lawyer
If you have employment law concerns, or you’re currently preparing for a case in North Carolina, then working with an experienced attorney can help. The hard part is finding the right one. We can even help you connect with an attorney across North Carolina state lines.
Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!