Employers must comply with a number of laws when determining whether or not to discharge a worker. For instance, they cannot terminate someone because he or she was born in another country, is of a certain race, or follows a specific religion. Violating the terms of contracts existing between employers and employees is also considered illegal. Ending workers’ employment in these situations could afford them the right to take legal action against their employers.
At-Will Employment in North Carolina
North Carolina is one of many states that have adopted employment-at-will laws. This means companies can fire workers at any time and for any reason as long as they do not have a contract that specifies otherwise and there are no other regulations regarding the relationship. While these laws are in place, there are a number of important exceptions which limit the rights of employers to end workers’ employment in certain circumstances.
Wrongful Termination in North Carolina
There are a number of recognized exceptions to North Carolina’s at-will employment doctrine. If an employer discharges a worker under these exceptions, it will be a violation of the employment laws and may be vulnerable to a lawsuit. Employees may be able to collect compensation such as back pay, front pay, punitive damages, recompense for attorney fees, and reasonable accommodations through these types of claims. Additionally, they may be reinstated to their former jobs.
Breach of Contract: In situations when employers and employees sign contracts, violating those contracts can result in legal action. Sometimes, such contracts dictate that workers are not at-will employees, and thus offer job security. These legal documents may specify under what circumstances people may lose their jobs. Therefore, this terminates a company’s rights to end an employment relationship at any time without a valid reason. Whether they are oral or written, it is crucial that companies honor the stipulations of any and all employment contracts.
Discrimination: Most wrongful termination cases involve discrimination of some kind. Federal and North Carolina law prevents any employer from terminating a worker based on the following: race, color, genetic information, national origin, religion, sex, pregnancy or age. State law also specifies that workers cannot be fired because of their military service or status, because they acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or human immunodeficiency virus positive, because they are sickle cell or hemoglobin C trait carriers, or due to their legal use of lawful products outside of the workplace.
Retaliation: The state and federal laws that govern discriminatory practices also protect against retaliation. In addition to termination, prohibited acts of retaliation include suspending, demoting, relocating, or cutting workers’ wages. Under these laws, employers are not permitted to fire workers or retaliate against them for taking part in discrimination hearings or otherwise avowing their legal rights. These activities, including testifying in court or taking other steps to end discriminatory practices, are considered protected activities.
North Carolina also has laws in place that prohibit retaliation against workers for the following reasons: reporting employers’ activities under the Control of Potential Drug Paraphernalia Products Act, filing an equal pay complaint, or being the victim of domestic or workplace violence. Additionally, state law prevents employers from denying reemployment or retention of employment to workers based on their service in the North Carolina National Guard.
Public Policy: A public policy exemption prohibits companies from firing workers when doing so goes against an established public policy of the state. For example, a company cannot terminate an employee on the grounds that he or she refused to comply with a request to do something illegal. Likewise, injured employees in North Carolina are permitted to collect workers’ compensation benefits. Therefore, employers are not permitted to fire a worker because he or she files a workers’ compensation claim or accepts these types of benefits.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.