Q. A former employee has filed a claim against our company in small claims court for unpaid wages. Can the HR manager handle this, or must we hire a lawyer?
A. North Carolina follows the general rule adopted by many states that a corporate entity may not represent itself pro se in litigation through a non-lawyer employee. However, the North Carolina Court of Appeals has created an exception to the general rule, recognizing that the General Assembly, in creating the Small Claims Division, intended “to provide our citizens, corporate as well as individual, with an expedient, inexpensive, speedy forum in which they can process litigation involving small sums without obtaining a lawyer.”
Under the law of LexisNexis v. Travishan Corp., a corporate entity may, therefore, represent itself through a non-lawyer employee in actions brought in the Small Claims Division.
Whether doing so is advisable is beyond the scope of this answer. That would depend, in part, on the complexity of the case and the representative employee’s familiarity with applicable laws.
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