All employees in North Carolina have rights, regardless of their job or position at a company. Employers are required to meet these rights under both federal and state laws. Learning your rights can be empowering and lead to a healthier and happier work environment. Knowing your employee rights can also help you settle disputes at the workplace.
The state of North Carolina does not require employers to hire the most qualified applicant; however, employers may not base decisions on characteristics not relating to the job. These characteristics may include, but are not limited to, race, sex, national origin, religion, age or a disability. North Carolina employers are also not allowed to ask questions relating to marital status or plans, children or plans, place of birth, sexual orientation or arrest history. Employers are able to ask character questions relating to crime convictions, proof of U.S. residency and job accommodations. Past employers are allowed to present any employee information as long as it is non-confidential and truthful. False information provided by an employee might result in defamation.
Employees in North Carolina are presumed to be "at will" employees. This means that a job position may be terminated for any legal reason, as long as it is not discriminating or wrongful. The state of North Carolina requires employers to pay a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour (as of January 2011), with the exemption of domestic and agricultural employees, which are subject to the federal minimum wage, which is also $7.25 per hour (as of January 2011). Under specific notification and accurate and complete records, service industry employers in North Carolina may count a percentage of employee tips toward the minimum wage. With the exceptions of a few employment positions, employers must pay time and half for each worked hour after the employee reaches 40 worked hours in a workweek.
Safety and Injury
It is required by federal and North Carolina state laws that employers follow work safety guidelines, recognizing any potential hazards that may cause injury or death to employees. The Division of Occupational Safety and Health in the state of North Carolina enforces the 1073 Occupational Safety and Health act, which requires a safe and healthy work environment. This law applies to most private sector employers and all state and local government agencies. Compensation laws in the state of North Carolina are designed to compensate injured or killed employees and/or their dependents following a work-related accident. Compensation amounts vary by case. Employees are also protected by law against any sexual harassment in the workplace.
Employers can terminate an employee at any time, except if the reason was specifically allowed in the employee contract, or for illegal reasons. Employers are not to base job termination on any of the following reasons: sex, race, age, religion, national origin, pregnancy or disability. It is also illegal for an employer to base promotions, job assignments or wages on these characteristics. Employers are also not allowed to terminate an employee for filing a complaint, refusing to break the law or taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
North Carolina employees who are eligible are allowed to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave with the continuation of medical benefits and job restoration upon return. Employees qualify under the Family and Medical Leave Act if they have been working with the employer for one year, or have worked 1,250 hours in the previous year. Employees also qualify it they work for a covered employer, which includes private employers with at least 50 employees, or federal, state and local government agencies and employers. North Carolina also has an unemployment compensation program benefiting employees who have lost their jobs without cause or self-terminated employment under "good cause." Unemployment benefits vary depending on wage; some employees may be allowed continued coverage of health insurance benefits under Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act.