Employers in North Carolina must follow both federal and North Carolina labor laws. However, different regulations exist for different types of employees. While the treatment of nonexempt employees is strictly governed, exempt employees have few protections under federal or NC labor laws.
When determining the rights of an employee in the state, first determine if the employee is truly exempt from employment regulations. Then, interested parties can understand what rights that employee has regarding overtime, breaks and the maximum hours they’re allowed to work in any one day.
Who Qualifies as Exempt Employees?
Both the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act (NCWAHA) categorize employees into two types: exempt and nonexempt. The FLSA and NCWAHA use the same criteria to determine which employees fit into which categories. Exempt employees do not have the rights afforded in either of these acts.
To be exempt according to FLSA and NCWAHA, employees must meet all the following criteria:
- Earn a guaranteed minimum of at least $23,600 per year or $455 per week.
- Get paid on a salaried basis, rather than hourly.
- Carry out “exempt job duties” at the FLSA defines.
The job duties test is the most complicated part of determining whether an employee is exempt. No matter the person’s job title, the employee is exempt if he or she completes all the following tasks as part of the job:
- Supervises at least two other employees on a regular basis.
- Primarily performs management duties.
- Has real input in the hiring, firing and promotion of employees.
Some other circumstances may make employees exempt from these laws. Furthermore, the laws specifically name certain occupations as exempt. For example, any job that is covered by a different federal act does not qualify for rights under the FLSA. Furthermore, people who work in agriculture or at movie theaters are exempt.
NC Labor Laws for Adult Exempt Employees
Exempt employees are not entitled to overtime pay under federal or NC labor laws. North Carolina also does not set the maximum hours that employees are allowed to work in a day. Instead, it is entirely up to the employer whether to have employees work 8-, 12- or 16-hour shifts.
Employers in North Carolina are allowed to make overtime hours mandatory to keep the position, regardless of the employee’s exempt status. The difference is that nonexempt employees will earn additional compensation for their overtime hours, while exempt employees will not.
Because North Carolina is an at-will employment state, employers are allowed to fire employees for almost any reason. This means that both exempt and nonexempt employees can get fired for refusing to work more than a specified number of hours in a day or week.
Labor Laws for Minors
North Carolina has stricter laws for employing minors than adult workers. For example, the maximum hours that a minor is allowed to work in a day is determined by whether school is in session and the total number of work hours in a week.
Workers in North Carolina who are 14 and 15 years old can work only 18 hours per week during school and 40 hours per week in the summer. They must also get breaks after five hours of work. They cannot work past 7 p.m. in the school year or 9 p.m. in the summer.
Workers in North Carolina who are 16 and 17 years old can only work between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. with written permission from their parents. The employment laws for minors apply whether they are exempt or nonexempt, though many jobs for teenagers are nonexempt.
- FLSA: Coverage under the FLSA
- Department of Labor: Handy Reference Guide to the Fair Labor Standards Act
- North Carolina Department of Labor: Overtime Pay, Salary and Comp Time
- North Carolina Department of Labor: Maximum/Minimum Hours Worked
- North Carolina Department of Labor: Work Hour Limitations for Youths