If you work for a business or corporation in North Carolina, there are federal and state laws meant to guarantee you certain rights as an employee. These rights include being afforded a fair and safe workplace that is free of any form of harassment and/or discrimination, being paid for overtime, and at least the minimum wage. Whenever your employer violates any of these rights, you may have grounds to file a claim or a potential employment lawsuit against your employer.
Such lawsuits could potentially result in substantial monetary compensation for the victim, and assert material change in the organization to avoid further violations in the future. However, in most cases, the victim employees may hesitate coming forward to report these violations for fear of retaliation from the employer or even losing their job.
If you have suffered the effects of illegal discrimination in your workplace because of your religion, ethnicity, race, age, gender, or disability, Harman Law can provide you with a free, confidential consultation, and initiate the process to help you fight back. Our employee law attorneys can investigate your claims and let you know if you have a case, and help protect you from retaliation.
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Employee Rights in North Carolina
North Carolina establishes its rules and regulations for employers and employees under Chapter 95 of the NC General Statutes, which are titled: Department of Labor and Labor Regulations. Fortunately, many North Carolina residents will work their entire lives without even giving much thought to workplace rights outside of the employer’s orientation classes.
Still, it’s good to know that there are several federal and state laws that protect your rights as an employee in the state of North Carolina. They include the following:
The Civil Rights Act of 1964
Employers that have at least 15 employees can’t make hiring, firing, or promotion decisions based on a person’s color, race, gender, national origin, or religion. Recent developments in this law prohibit gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination.
Age Discrimination Employment Act
This law essentially prohibits the employer from giving preference to the younger employees.
Americans with Disabilities Act
This is a federal law that explicitly prohibits discrimination in the workplace. It requires that all employers offer reasonable accommodation for all disabled employees.
Family and Medical Leave Act
This federal law encompasses regulations regarding sick and pregnancy leaves, vacations, etc. though it doesn’t always apply to every employee in every situation.
Fair Labor Standards Act
This law regulates reasonable work hours and overtime pay, along with the mandatory meal and rest breaks. There’s also a recent overtime rule that defines eligibility for salaried workers.
North Carolina Wage and Hour Act
This ideally extends to all the employers in the state, regardless of how many employees they have. The law governs the complex regulations surrounding payment upon termination, shortages, along with other wage disputes.
North Carolina Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act
This act is meant to add an extra level of protection against workplace discrimination, such as by prohibiting wrongful termination and retaliation for employees who’ve applied for workers’ compensation, reported any violations, and/or reported safety concerns to OSHA.
There are many other employment laws and local ordinances in North Carolina that may apply to your situation. Examples include NC Leave Laws, NC Child Labor Law, and NC Smokers’ Rights Act.
What Work Industries Have the Most Employment Law Violations?
According to data from the Center for Public Integrity, American workers alleged violations of anti-discrimination laws in over 1 million cases filed between the years 2010 and 2017. Of the 1 million cases, about 930,000 cases had been closed as of January 2018.
Unfortunately, 82% of these cases saw the worker not receive any form of compensation. Among the 930,000 closed cases, the most common forms of alleged discrimination were racial discrimination, retaliation, age discrimination, sexual discrimination, and discrimination related to disability and other medical conditions.
What Should I do if I am Facing Harassment or Discrimination at Work?
For many people, it’s not easy to report discrimination in the workplace. However, you should know that nothing will change if you fail to take action. If you feel like you’re being discriminated against at work, you can take the following steps:
Get the Facts Right
For you to make progress with your workplace discrimination claim, you want to be as objective as possible and focus on the specific issues, details, and facts. Hunches and feelings aren’t adequate here. For instance, you can’t just claim that your manager doesn’t like you. To prove discrimination, you must provide concrete facts.
Let Your Employer Know
The next step is to have your employer know that you feel you’re being harassed or discriminated against. It’s likely that lots of illegal acts of harassment or discrimination go unpunished because the victim doesn’t make step up and make it clear that the conduct is unwelcome and unacceptable. While your employer is responsible for complying with the law, you are responsible for ensuring your personal rights are protected.
Show Your Employer that You’re Taking the Matter Seriously
Request them to make a written report each time you report an incident of harassment or discrimination. Have them investigate your case and take the necessary disciplinary actions against the offenders.
Keep a Record of All Incidents of Harassment and/or Discrimination
Your journal entries should ideally include the date, time, location, and names of witnesses who were present during the incident. Be sure to include a description of what happened.
Be Mindful of Retaliation
According to the EEOC, most of the cases they receive are retaliation against workers who have made a complaint. In case you experience any retaliation, add the details to your journal.
Consider getting outside help to protect your rights. If you’re being harassed or discriminated against and your employer is retaliating or being unresponsive, consider contacting the EEOC or even an Employee Rights Lawyer at Harman law.
How Do I Know if I Have Been Wrongfully Terminated in North Carolina?
North Carolina is an at-will employment state. This means that for most private-sector jobs (not federal, state, or local government); an employer, under most circumstances, is allowed to fire an employee for no reason, or without cause. With this in mind, firing someone without cause is illegal when it:
- Violates the employment contract that outlines the terms and conditions of employment and limits the ability of the employer to fire an employee at will.
- Violates a given public policy
- Violated certain state and/or federal statutes that prohibit retaliation or discrimination
If you’re employed on contract, it may establish a “for cause” reasons that could terminate your employment. In North Carolina, a contract is likely to give the employer wide latitude and could include “at-will” language. Since they are not legally required, you most likely don’t have an employment contract. The employee policy or manual you’re required to read and sign isn’t an employment contract.
Firing someone is only considered discriminatory or illegal if it’s based on gender, race, religion, national origin, age, pregnancy, citizenship status, or disability. It’s also illegal to fire someone in retaliation for having complained about rights violations, wage issues, workplace safety issues, or an on-the-job injury. It’s also illegal to fire someone for taking a leave of absence for a serious medical condition, or for having filed a workers’ compensation claim.
What Can I Do If My Employer Denies My Leave of Absence in North Carolina?
Many employers offer their employees a handbook when they start work. These typically contain provisions that address time off from work, including vacation leaves, employer sick leave policies (paid and unpaid), and paid time-off leave. The provisions are designed by the company as part of their employee benefits, and the employers grant leaves based on the provisions of these policies.
There are certain cases where the state or federal law requires employers to grant their employees a leave of absence. For instance, there are state laws that require the employer to provide an employee with a given amount of time in case of injury or illness either of the employee or of a family member. Most of these laws require that the employee who takes the leave is allowed to return to their existing job. As such, they come with anti-retaliation provisions.
If you requested a leave of absence and your employer denied it, and you need advice on whether you are entitled to a leave of absence, you should get in touch with an employee law attorney. A North Carolina Employment attorney from Harman Law can assess your case and advise you on your available options. And when needed, we will represent you in all court proceedings.
Get In Touch With Our North Carolina Employee Law Attorneys
We know that standing up to your employer can be quite an intimidating experience, especially if you don’t really know for sure which federal and state laws protect your rights. At Harman Law, our employee law attorneys understand these challenges and have decades of handling employment cases.
We provide all our clients with confidential consultations at no cost. Our skilled and experienced lawyers can advise you about your rights and those of your fellow employees. From there, we’ll explain the legal options you have. Get in touch with us at the form below or call us at 704-766-8729.