North Carolina has enacted some state laws to protect the rights of workers and employers statewide, but those laws are not generally more protective of employees than federal law.
Part-Time vs. Full-Time
North Carolina labor laws do not clearly define full or part-time employment, so an employer can decide what factors make an employee full- or part-time. However, if the designation affects wages or benefits, the employer must clarify what it takes to be full- or part-time in writing. The employer can legally switch an employee from full- to part-time without the employee’s knowledge, as long as wages or benefits earned before the time of the change are not taken away.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law regulating employee wage and hours. The FLSA set a nationwide standard for minimum wage of $7.25, and North Carolina has not increased this minimum wage requirement within the state. For tipped employees, the maximum amount of tip credit that can count toward the minimum wage is $5.12 an hour, so the cash minimum wage is $2.13 an hour, so long as employees receive enough tips to make up the difference between paid wages and minimum wage.
The general rule is that an employer in North Carolina must pay non-exempt employees at least the minimum wage or pay the employee the promised rate of pay, whichever is greater, and pay time and one-half overtime pay based on the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 hours. However, there are exceptions to this rule. An employer is not required to pay overtime to “exempt" employees who fit into categories of executive, administrative, or professional roles. Minimum wage and overtime pay are based on the number of hours an employee works each week, and not by the number of hours worked per day or the number of days worked per week. If an employer intentionally avoids paying overtime in North Carolina, the employee may be entitled to additional money.
North Carolina does not require all employees to receive health benefits. However, as of January 1, 2015, the employer mandate under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) required employers with at least 51 full time equivalent employees to provide health coverage to full-time employees. If an employer provides health benefits to employees, coverage cannot be influenced by discrimination based on gender, race, age, national origin, religion, or disability.
North Carolina employment is "at-will". This means an employment relationship can be changed for any reason – even one that seems unfair or demeaning – so long as the reason for the employer’s treatment is not based on race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex, or disability. To sue an employer for discrimination, an employee must file a complaint with the local branch of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and a lawsuit must be filed within 180 days of discrimination.
North Carolina does not have state laws requiring employers to provide employees with sick leave benefits, either paid or unpaid. The only leave benefits for an employee are those required by the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which requires employers with at least 50 employees to permit all eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for any of the following reasons:
- To care for a seriously ill immediate family member (child, parent, spouse);
- To recuperate from their own serious health conditions;
- To bond with a new child; or
- To handle urgent matters related to a family member’s military service.
Where Can I Find a Lawyer to Help Me?
Most employment laws have strict deadlines that must be complied with, so if you think you are not getting the basic rights and protections offered by Federal Law and/or North Carolina’s state labor laws, do not hesitate to contact a local employment lawyer today. The attorney can help you understand your rights and how to protect yourself.