Employee Health: North Carolina
Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.
Author: Leanne Coffman, The Safety Training Solution LLC
- The North Carolina Workers' Compensation Act covers personal injuries that transpired due to or in the course of employment. See Occupational Diseases.
- Under North Carolina law, employers are prohibited from discriminating against victims of domestic violence. See Managing Mental Health Concerns.
- The state does not have comprehensive laws that prohibit smoking in all public places or private workplaces. See Smoking in the Workplace.
- North Carolina has a Good Samaritan law, which provides conditional protection for those offering voluntary medical care. See Managing Emergency Medical Situations.
Managing Day-to-Day Health Concerns
Occupational Diseases and Injuries
North Carolina's Workers' Compensation laws cover various occupational diseases as compensable. However, the disease must not be originated by personal or expected life events (such as aging), but rather by causes and conditions of the job duties or workplace.
Under this definition, North Carolina covers occupational hearing loss, and certain diseases caused by chemical exposures. Occupational diseases due to chemicals are covered when an employee is exposed in a format, quantity, and frequency as to cause the illness. Routine exposure, equal to the exposure of the general public, is not covered.
Managing Mental Health Concerns
Gaining workers' compensation coverage for mental injuries that are caused by the work environment is difficult in the state. Decisions by North Carolina courts have not been favorable toward plaintiffs in this regard.
However, employers should be aware that employees may still file suit for hostile or discriminatory work environments that cause mental anguish. Therefore, training supervisors and staff to manage employees ethically and respond to complaints promptly is critical.
Under North Carolina law, employers are prohibited from discriminating against victims of domestic violence. Discriminatory actions include firing, demoting, disciplining or refusing to hire domestic violence victims.
Employers must also grant employees reasonable time away from work to obtain (or attempt to obtain) protective orders for minor children or the worker.
Affected employees seeking time away from work for these purposes should follow company leave policies, unless an emergency prevents providing prior notice.
North Carolina's Workplace Violence Prevention Act
According to North Carolina's Workplace Violence Prevention Act employers may file civil no-contact orders (or restraining orders) on behalf of the worker(s) to prevent acts of violence in the workplace.
Managing Substance Abuse
Drug or Alcohol Addiction
Under various state and federal laws, North Carolina employers are prohibited from discriminating against an employee because of a disability, which may include a history alcoholism or drug abuse. Active or current addiction is not covered under the state anti-discrimination laws.
Smoking in the Workplace
The state does not have comprehensive laws that prohibit smoking in all public places or private workplaces. However, North Carolina does ban smoking in all enclosed areas of restaurants and bars. +N.C. Gen. Stat. § 130A-496. In addition, smoking is prohibited in public schools and on school grounds, and in state government buildings and vehicles and long-term care facilities. +N.C. Gen. Stat. § 130A-493; +N.C. Gen. Stat. § 130A-498.
Smoking means the use or possession of a lighted cigarette, cigar or pipe, or any other lighted tobacco product. +N.C. Gen. Stat. § 130A-492.
Smoking is permitted in:
- Designated smoking guest rooms in a lodging establishment (up to 20% of rooms);
- Certain cigar bars; and
- Private clubs.
A person who manages, operates or controls a restaurant or bar in which smoking is prohibited must conspicuously post signs clearly stating that smoking is prohibited. The signs may include the international "No Smoking" symbol. +N.C. Gen. Stat. § 130A-497.
Unless a workplace is in one of the designated categories that ban smoking, employers are not required to prohibit smoking. However, employers are not obligated to provide smoking areas or provide accommodations for smokers. Employers may create policies to limit or prevent smoking at their discretion.
Local areas may create further restrictions banning smoking in some local government buildings or public places and local government buildings. However, local governments are prohibited from creating rules that prohibit smoking in cigar bars and tobacco shops, private residences and vehicles and privately owned workplaces.
Although not required by law, if employers opt to create a smoking policy, they should inform workers and create methods to enforce the policy.
Off Duty Conduct
The state has laws preventing discrimination against an employee's off duty use of lawful products, such as tobacco. Therefore, employers may not refuse to hire or perform negative employment actions because of the employee's smoking or lawful consumption of alcohol or tobacco use away from work.
However, if the employee's use creates safety issues on the job or adversely affects job performance, then the employer may take action.
Employers may also restrict the use of lawful products by employees during nonworking hours if the restriction relates to the fundamental objectives of the organization, such as for a cancer awareness workplace whose primary function is the prevent smoking.
Managing Emergency Medical Situations
Under the North Carolina Good Samaritan Law, persons offering emergency medical care, inclusive of the use of an automatic external defibrillator (AED), are not liable for civil damages.
The law covers non-medical professionals, as well as healthcare providers who provide voluntary emergency care at no cost to the victim. Limited immunity is also granted for responders who must deploy an AED for the purpose of emergency medical care.
However, to gain protection under the law, the care must be rendered with good faith and without compensation. Acts of gross negligence, such as willful misconduct or intentional wrongdoing to injure the victim, are not covered by the law.
Although protection from liability is extended to untrained persons who must use an AED in an emergency, facilities that purchase an AED must train expected users in CPR and operation of the AED to gain protection under the law.
Additionally, the local emergency services must be notified of the location and type of the device in use at the facility.
If the AED is used for lifesaving purposes, the local emergency services must be immediately notified.
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