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Employee Discipline: North Carolina

Employee Discipline requirements for other states

Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.

Authors: Amie Flowers Carmack and Daniel J. Palmieri, K&L Gates LLP


  • Most employees in North Carolina are employees at-will, meaning that employers have significant flexibility in disciplining or terminating them. The employment at-will doctrine has been eroded by both statute and common law, so employers must exercise caution with any type of discipline, up to and including termination. See Employment At-Will Doctrine.
  • Employers should exercise caution when disciplining employees who are members of protected classes. See Discrimination.
  • North Carolina's retaliation statute prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who make certain types of claims or engage in certain whistleblowing or other protected activities. See Retaliation.
  • Public employers must be alert when disciplining employees for reporting violations of state policy. See Whistleblower Protection.
  • North Carolina law regulates procedural aspects of employee drug testing. See Employee Testing; Drug and Alcohol Testing.
  • Under North Carolina law, individuals with permits issued by the sheriff are permitted to carry concealed handguns in most public places, including workplaces. However, employers may take steps to stop the practice. See Rules Regarding Guns in the Workplace.
  • There are no statutory restrictions in North Carolina on an employer's ability to obtain or use arrest or conviction records in making employment decisions. See Criminal Convictions as a Basis for Discipline.
  • Employers should exercise caution when disciplining employees for off-duty conduct. See Restrictions on Off-Duty Behavior.
  • North Carolina is a one party consent state with respect to intercepting electronic communications. See Privacy and Surveillance.
  • North Carolina law allows an action for misappropriation of trade secrets. See Trade Secrets Protection Act.
  • Employers may be liable for certain employee claims regarding discipline, including defamation, blacklisting and false imprisonment. See Other Areas of Potential Employer Liability Related to Employee Discipline.