The HR Specialist: North Carolina Employment Law

It’s illegal to retaliate against employees for complaining about sex discrimination or harassment. The employee’s initial complaint doesn’t have to pan out, either. It’s enough that the employee reasonably believed in good faith that she was being discriminated against.

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Employers that don’t do enough to combat sexual harassment in the workplace face liability under Title VII. But it doesn’t follow that har­­assed em­­ployees can also sue under state law for negligent supervision. Employees have to be satisfied with the remedies under Title VII and can’t go for a larger jury award under state common law.

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Here’s a case that illustrates at least one advantage for em­­ployers to a union workplace. If your collective bargaining agreement spells out how pay is calculated and excludes time spent donning and doffing work clothes and safety equipment, a contrary state wage-and-hour law doesn’t apply.

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When an employee complains about discrimination and then finds himself part of a reduction in force, he may have a tough time proving that the complaint had ­anything to do with the layoff. But if he then ends up being the only employee never recalled or rehired, he may have a retaliation case.

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A former meat packer at the Smith­­field Foods plant in Clinton has a bone to pick with the company. She claims her complaints about food safety went un­­heeded and uninvestigated during her 18 months on the job.

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Here’s an important reminder that employers aren’t responsible for pre­­venting every ugly workplace incident. Just because someone vandalizes an employee’s property doesn’t mean you will be liable for creating a hostile work environment.

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You may think that time is on your side after you tackled hostility in the workplace. But that isn’t always the case. For example, firing an employee who had to work in a hostile work environment for years may still mean liability, even if you recently cleaned up the workplace.

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Governors might think they have a thankless job, but being told that directly can still sting. Gov. Pat McCrory recently found out exactly how thankless the job can be.

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Salaried retail managers often have to step in and perform nonmanagement tasks. The fact that they do some of the same things that hourly employees do doesn’t mean they aren’t exempt under the FLSA—as long as they are also managing at the same time.

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Poor performance sounds like a legitimate reason to fire someone. That doesn’t mean the employee won’t sue. If that happens, you must be prepared to show that other em­­ployees who held the same position and had similar performance issues were also terminated. If not, you had better be able to explain why.

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