Labor and Employment Law Overview: North Carolina

Labor and Employment Law Overview requirements for other states

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

Author: XpertHR Editorial Team

Summary

  • North Carolina law prohibits an employer from discriminating and retaliating against employees in a variety of protected classes. See EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations.
  • North Carolina requires the use of E-Verify and permits preemployment drug testing, but prohibits consideration of expunged criminal records. See Recruiting and Hiring.
  • In North Carolina, there are requirements relating to the minimum wage, overtime and child labor. See Wage and Hour.
  • North Carolina has laws that relate to employee pay and benefits, including health care continuation, pay frequency, pay statement and wage deductions. See Pay and Benefits.
  • Under North Carolina law, employees are entitled to certain leave or time off, including parental school involvement leave, emergency responder leave, jury duty leave, domestic violence leave, precinct official leave and military leave. See Time Off and Leaves of Absence.
  • North Carolina law requires employers to provide a safe working environment for their employees, including regulations on safety committees. North Carolina also prohibits smoking in certain workplaces and texting while driving, and allows employers to prohibit weapons in the workplace. See Health and Safety.
  • When employment ends, North Carolina employers must comply with applicable final pay and job reference requirements. See Organizational Exit.

Introduction to Employment Law in North Carolina

North Carolina has laws that provide greater protections to employees than federal law, including health care continuation coverage obligations for smaller employers and E-Verify and parental school involvement leave requirements, but generally follows federal law with respect to topics such as the minimum wage and occupational safety.

Select North Carolina employment requirements are summarized below to help an employer understand the range of employment laws affecting the employer-employee relationship in the state. An employer must comply with both federal and state law.

An employer must also comply with applicable municipal law obligations affecting the employment relationship, in addition to complying with state and federal requirements.

EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations

Key North Carolina requirements impacting EEO, diversity and employee relations are:

Fair Employment Practices

Under the Equal Employment Practices Act and the North Carolina Persons With Disabilities Protection Act, employers with 15 or more employees are prohibited from discriminating against and harassing individuals based on protected characteristics, such as:

  • Race;
  • Color;
  • National origin;
  • Religion;
  • Age;
  • Sex (including pregnancy); and
  • Handicap or disability.

Other laws prohibiting discrimination on other factors may apply.

In addition, the Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (REDA) prohibits an employer from taking any punitive or adverse action against any employee for filing (or threatening to file) a complaint, initiating an investigation or proceeding, testifying or providing information to any person in connection with various state statutes.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on EEO, diversity and employee relations practices in North Carolina can be found in the North Carolina Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Disabilities (ADA): North Carolina, EEO - Discrimination: North Carolina, EEO - Harassment: North Carolina, EEO - Retaliation: North Carolina and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in North Carolina? Federal requirements can be found in Disabilities (ADA): Federal, EEO - Discrimination: Federal, EEO - Harassment: Federal and EEO - Retaliation: Federal.

Recruiting and Hiring

Key North Carolina requirements impacting recruiting and hiring are:

Criminal Checks

North Carolina law prohibits an employer from asking individuals on a job application, during an interview "or otherwise" about expunged criminal convictions, charges or arrests.

Drug Testing

Under North Carolina law, employers that require job applicants to submit to a controlled substance examination must comply with certain procedural requirements, such using an approved laboratory to conduct testing, confirming a positive test result and allowing applicants to seek a retest.

E-Verify

North Carolina law requires that employers with 25 or more employees use E-Verify to confirm the work authorization of new hires. Employers are not required to use E-Verify for individuals whose term of employment is fewer than nine months in a calendar year.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on recruiting and hiring practices in North Carolina can be found in the North Carolina Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Preemployment Screening and Testing: North Carolina, Immigration, Form I-9 and Work Visas: North Carolina and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in North Carolina? Federal requirements can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Federal and Immigration, Form I-9 and Work Visas: Federal.

Wage and Hour

Key North Carolina requirements impacting wages and hours are:

Minimum Wage

North Carolina's minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, the same as the federal minimum wage.

Overtime

North Carolina law generally requires an employer to pay covered employees overtime at a rate of one and one-half times the regular rate for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek.

Child Labor

Child labor laws in North Carolina restrict the occupations in which minors may be employed and the number of hours and times during which they may work.

All minors are prohibited from working in occupations declared to be hazardous by the US Department of Labor and the Commissioner of the North Carolina Department of Labor, as well as those enumerated in North Carolina law, including, but not limited to:

  • Work involving the risk of falling a distance of 10 feet or more;
  • Work in confined spaces;
  • Welding, brazing and torch cutting;
  • Work involving exposure to lead, benzene, quartz, silicon dioxide or asbestos silicate;
  • Work as an electrician or electrician's helper; and
  • Preparing, serving, dispensing or selling alcoholic beverages.

Minors 13 years old or younger are prohibited from working for an employer, except that minors who are 12 or 13 years old may distribute newspapers outside of school hours for no more than three hours a day.

During the regular school term, no minor under 18 years of age who is enrolled in grade 12 or lower may work between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. before a school day. However, this prohibition may be waived under certain circumstances.

Minors who are 14 and 15 years of age may not work:

  • During school hours;
  • Before 7:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m. (9:00 p.m. when school is not in session);
  • More than three hours per day on school days, or eight hours on nonschool days; and
  • More than 18 hours a week during school weeks, or 40 hours during nonschool weeks.

Minors under 16 years of age generally must receive at least a 30-minute rest break after working five consecutive hours.

North Carolina requires minors to have a youth employment certificate to work.

Certain occupations are exempt from the youth employment restrictions.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on wage and hour practices in North Carolina can be found in the North Carolina Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Minimum Wage: North Carolina, Overtime: North Carolina, Hours Worked: North Carolina, Child Labor: North Carolina, North Carolina Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in North Carolina? Federal requirements can be found in Minimum Wage: Federal, Overtime: Federal, Hours Worked: Federal and Child Labor: Federal.

Pay and Benefits

Key North Carolina requirements impacting pay and benefits are:

Health Care Continuation

North Carolina's health care continuation coverage law applies to fully insured plans, regardless of the size of the employer. Under the law, an employer must offer continuation of heath care coverage for up to 18 months to an employee and his or her covered dependents who lose coverage due to termination of employment or loss of eligibility under the plan.

Continuation coverage does not have to include dental, vision, prescription drug or any other benefits provided under the group policy other than hospital, surgical or major medical benefits.

Pay Frequency

The Wage and Hour Act requires an employer to pay employees on regular paydays. Pay periods may be daily, weekly, biweekly, semimonthly or monthly. Wages based on bonuses, commissions or other forms of calculation may be paid as infrequently as annually if scheduled in advance.

Pay Statements

North Carolina employers are required to provide employees with an itemized written statement of deductions made from their wages for each pay period in which deductions are made.

Wage Deductions

North Carolina law prohibits an employer from making deductions from employees' wages except in strictly limited circumstances, including:

  • As required by state or federal law (e.g., child support and tax levies);
  • For the convenience of the employee (e.g., contributions to savings plans, union or club dues, and charitable contributions); and
  • For cash or inventory shortages or loss or damage to the employer's property.

Even where deductions are permissible, North Carolina law requires the employer to comply with numerous requirements that vary depending on the type of deduction, such as getting the employee's written authorization or providing advance written notice to the employee of the amount to be withheld.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on pay and benefits practices in North Carolina can be found in Health Care Continuation (COBRA): North Carolina, Payment of Wages: North Carolina, North Carolina Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in North Carolina? Federal requirements can be found in Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Federal and Payment of Wages: Federal.

Time Off and Leaves of Absence

North Carolina has several laws relating to required time off and leaves of absence for employees, which cover all employers. These laws include:

  • Parental school involvement leave;
  • Emergency responder leave;
  • Jury duty leave;
  • Domestic violence leave;
  • Precinct official leave; and
  • Military leave.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on time off and leave of absence practices in North Carolina can be found in the North Carolina Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Jury Duty: North Carolina, Other Leaves: North Carolina, USERRA: North Carolina and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in North Carolina? Federal requirements can be found in Jury Duty: Federal, Other Leaves: Federal and USERRA: Federal.

Health and Safety

Key North Carolina requirements impacting health and safety are:

Occupational Safety and Health

Most North Carolina employers must comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act of North Carolina, which generally adopts all federal rules and creates a limited number of state-specific standards. North Carolina law has some requirements that have no federal equivalent, such as those for safety committees and for safety and health programs.

Smoke-Free Workplace

North Carolina bans smoking in certain private workplaces, including restaurants, bars and long-term care facilities.

Weapons in the Workplace

Firearms (even with a valid concealed carry permit) may be prohibited on any private premises where notice is conspicuously posted or given by statement of the person in control of the property.

Safe Driving Practices

North Carolina prohibits texting while driving.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on health and safety practices in North Carolina can be found in the North Carolina Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Employee Health: North Carolina, Workplace Security: North Carolina, HR and Workplace Safety: North Carolina, North Carolina Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in North Carolina? Federal requirements can be found in Employee Health: Federal, Workplace Security: Federal and HR and Workplace Safety (OSHA Compliance): Federal.

Organizational Exit

Key North Carolina requirements impacting organizational exit are:

Final Pay

Upon termination (voluntary or involuntary), North Carolina law provides that wages are due on or before the next regular payday, either in the usual manner of payment or by mail if requested by the employee. Wages based on bonuses, commissions or other forms of calculation must be paid on the first regular payday after the amount becomes calculable.

Earned vacation pay, commissions and bonuses may not be forfeited unless the employer has a written forfeiture clause in its vacation, commission, bonus or termination policy.

References

A North Carolina employer is generally immune from liability when providing job references upon employee request, unless it discloses information that is false or that it knew or reasonably should have known was false.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on organizational exit practices in North Carolina can be found in Payment of Wages: North Carolina, Employee Communications: North Carolina and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in North Carolina? Federal requirements can be found in Payment of Wages: Federal and Employee Communications: Federal.