This article explains the basics of employment law for North Carolina businesses and employers, focusing on how to avoid legal trouble as both an employee and employer. It discusses:
- The difficulties and barriers faced by North Carolina employers and employees.
- Common employment-related legal concerns and how to deal with them.
- Requirements for termination and the risk of wrongful termination lawsuits.
Employment is a risky business. Employees and employers have often strained relations, and when more than just money is often on the line, you want to be sure your slate, whether employer or employee, is perfectly clear.
Who Can Benefit From Employment Law Legal Advice In North Carolina?
Most of the employment law cases that arise in North Carolina are from the employee perspective, dealing with Equal Opportunity hiring, the Employment Commission, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EOC).
Business and employment attorneys will often need to fight for or against worker’s rights litigation, but many also deal with wage disputes, again either defending the worker’s rights or the business’s behavior.
What Recent Challenges To Hiring Employing Workers Commonly Come Up In North Carolina?
While employment law is constantly evolving and responding to national or state-wide changes, one theme of recent cases has been COVID-19-related issues, challenges, and changes.
The policies that were put in place to deal with the pandemic have sometimes caused interesting and complex interactions with the workforce and employment law – some of which were not even direct consequences of legal changes.
For example, there are a host of new problems arising around employees who were sent home during the pandemic and now have a hybrid work-from-home, work-from-the-office type of schedule. Yet another mentality shift that has led to legal complications involves commuting. Now, many workers feel like they should be compensated for their time spent driving to work or to a meeting when they would not have thought twice about doing so prior to COVID.
While such trends remain common and emerging issues in employment law, workers’ rights have always been a complex field. Whether talking about sexual harassment or hostile work environments, there are always concerns that need to be addressed and protections for both employees and employers that need to be put into place – and that’s exactly where an attorney steps in.
What Are The Most Common Employment-Related Concerns In North Carolina Workplaces?
Employees can bring many different types of cases against their employers, but the most common disputes are financial, concerning issues about wages paid and hours worked. A field that is further complicated by the fact that North Carolina is a “right-to-work” and “at-will” State.
Although this allows employers in certain circumstances and fields to fire an employee without cause or justification, there are other protected areas that cannot be cause for termination. Notably disability, religious belief, or other categories and identities that are protected in Federal or North Carolina law. Termination lawsuits are thus also relatively frequent as workers and companies argue over the real reasons that someone was fired.
Can An Employee In North Carolina Be Terminated Or Fired Without Cause?
Termination is always a thorny question in employment law, of which the cornerstone is the starting metric that depends on the state. As an “at-will” state, there does not need to be a cause for an employer to fire an employee, nor for an employee to quit without notice in North Carolina.
You can, however, of course, fire someone for a specific cause, such as failing to meet their obligations or incompetence. In fact, this may make it easier to avoid being sued for wrongful termination, because while an employer does not need a reason to terminate an employee, if they do so for the wrong reasons (such as discrimination), an employee can sue them.
This is because no employer has the right to violate any of the federal statutes concerning employment law, such as those protecting workers against discriminatory practices or hostile or retaliatory work environments.
Can My Business Be Protected From Wrongful Termination Suits In North Carolina?
Short of never employing anyone, you can never be 100% protected against having an employee sue you. Employees have the legal right to do so – even without a good cause. (Though they will probably lose the case without it!)
The best protection against such lawsuits is having very good insurance, the second best is to document everything meticulously, and ideally, you should always do both. Live by the book, respect your contracts and engagements, and don’t just put them on the shelf. If your employee manual says there will be six-month evaluations, but you are never evaluating, (or never documenting them when you do), you are leaving yourself wide open for later lawsuits.
Regardless of whether you are a worker or employer, you should document interactions with the other, have them sign off, and even send follow-up emails to conversations for confirmations. If solid planning and contracts are the foundation of your protection, documentation is the armor and fortification you build along the way.
Finally, if you are concerned about your liability towards employees, or your rights as a worker after a recent termination, you should consult a business law firm with employment law experience.