North Carolina employers have one less thing to worry about: A federal trial court recently decided the North Carolina Equal Employment Practices Act (EEPA) does not allow employees to file separate retaliation claims on top of initial discrimination complaints.
That’s good news because, in the past, employees had been able to use retaliation claims to create liability even if their original discrimination claims turned out to be unfounded. If they could persuade a court that their employers punished them for making the original complaint, they often had a retaliation case.
Recent case: William Hardin worked for Belmont Textile Machinery. The president asked employees to voluntarily give up some of their earnings to help keep the company afloat—and help them keep their jobs. Hardin agreed, but would later claim Belmont told him he would be repaid later. Hardin began to complain about what he saw as fraud.
Hardin was fired after his supervisors said he spent too much work time attending to his second job. He then sued under the EEPA, alleging he was fired for complaining about the pay cuts.
The court tossed out his EEPA claim, reasoning that there was nothing specific in the state law that allowed retaliation claims. (Hardin v. Belmont Textile Machinery, No. 3:05-CV-00492, WD NC, 2008)