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The HR Specialist: North Carolina Employment Law

One of the easiest ways for an em­­ployee to win a lawsuit against his employer is to allege retaliation. That’s because retaliation is anything that would dissuade a reasonable employee from complaining in the first place. Fortunately, some courts are becoming more skeptical about retaliation lawsuits.

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Freeman & Associates Contracting, a Raleigh construction firm, has agreed to pay four workers $20,000 in back wages after U.S. Department of Labor investigators determined the workers were improperly classified as independent contractors.

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Seeking performance appraisal input from too many employees can cause problems if you’re sued by a terminated worker. The wider a net you cast, the more likely someone will be called to testify about his or her opinion of the discharged employee’s performance. The problem: If any of those co-workers retire, quit and move on, you may have trouble tracking them down.

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Back in December 2011, the operator of a Dairy Queen restaurant in Winston-Salem’s Hanes Mall agreed to settle an EEOC lawsuit involving a teen worker who claimed she was retaliated against for complaining about sexual harassment. But nothing happened, so a year and a half later, the EEOC decided to up the ante.

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A bill before the North Carolina House of Representatives would require employers to give employees notice of their employment status at the time of hire and when any material change in the employment relationship occurs.

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In 2008, Congress expanded the FMLA to include two types of military leave: exigency leave and military caregiver leave. In 2010, Congress expanded those leave rights by applying them to the regular armed forces as well as National Guard members and reservists. Now those changes have been officially implemented with new regulations from the U.S. Department of Labor.

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With North Carolina owing over $2.5 billion to the federal government, Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill reforming the state’s unemployment insurance system shortly after he took office in January. The law applies to new unemployment claims filed on or after July 1, 2013.

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Let’s face it: Some employees are a bit strange. Sometimes, their behavior may even be an indication of serious mental health problems. But before you rush to demand the employee get counseling or see a doctor, remember that the ADA prohibits such requests unless there is a clear business necessity for the exam.

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Pushed to do more with less, many employers are asking employees to work longer hours. That can cause workers to lose sleep and may even result in diagnoses of insomnia. But not everyone who is sleep deprived and takes medication to sleep is disabled and entitled to reasonable accommodations, such as a shorter workday.

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Garner-based KBE Landscaping will pay $14,651 in back pay to 33 em­­ployees after a Department of Labor investigation revealed the company failed to properly pay overtime to its hourly workers.

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