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Frederick Thurman

Q. My company has about 80 employees spread among four stores in Charlotte and upstate South Carolina. Business is rebounding, and we expect 10 to 15 new hires in the next few months. Proposed changes in immigration laws are often in the news. Is there anything new I should know?

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Cell phones, BlackBerries, iPods, iPhones and GPS devices—even laptop computers—all offer important travel information and productive work connectivity for employees on the go. But using those devices while operating a vehicle is also dangerous. That’s why North Carolina recently passed a law, effective Dec. 1, making it unlawful for a person operating a motor vehicle to send text or e-mail messages while the vehicle is in motion.

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Q. The employment and noncompete agreements we have with our salespeople are several years old and appear outdated to me. May I require everyone to sign new, updated agreements?

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Q. A former employee is demanding pay for her unused vacation and sick leave. Must we pay her?

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Q. We need to fire an employee who has an employment contract that limits termination without notice to “for cause” events. Must we abide by this provision if another provision in the contract clearly indicates that his employment is “at will” only?

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Employers enter a legal minefield when they inquire about the health of applicants or employees. State and federal laws—such as the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA), the ADA and the FMLA—overlap, and any misstep can cause a litigation explosion.

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Barely two months into the 2009-2010 session, the North Carolina General Assembly has already introduced a profusion of employment-related bills. Employers should keep a watchful eye on several bills that already appear to have strong support this new legislative year.

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Q. Payroll taxes are hurting our bottom line. May I convert part-time bookkeepers to "1099" employees?

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Q. We’re closing our doors and firing all of our employees. As president, I am considering not paying my employees their final paychecks, even though they have earned that pay. Is this a risk?

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Q. We are downsizing and letting go a long-time employee. We want to help her out by giving her a severance package. What should we consider?

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