The HR Specialist: North Carolina Employment Law

Chalk up a win for employers that fear huge class-action lawsuits. A North Carolina judge has decertified a class action against CEVA Freight, a freight hauler. The suit had alleged the company was underpaying some 2,000 drivers across the nation.

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A federal court has sidestepped the question of whether workplace discrimination based on participation in an interracial relationship is illegal under the North Carolina Equal Employment Practices Act.

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Some people claim they are ex­­tremely sensitive to chemicals and that their condition is a disability that must be accommodated under the ADA. Employers then have no choice but to start the interactive accommodations process. But if the list of chemicals is long and if it’s impossible to remove them from the work environment, you can try your best and may still have to admit defeat.

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Some employees are hypersensitive to any criticism, even if it is constructive. That won’t turn a weak discrimination lawsuit into a winner. For example, if the employee receives a largely positive performance review that lists some areas in need of improvement, chances are the court will toss the case fast.

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The FMLA allows employers that don’t want to accept an employee’s medical certification to ask for (and pay for) a second opinion. If the two opinions contradict one another, the employer may pay for a third, tie-breaking assessment. But that can be expensive. If you prefer to simply deny the employee’s leave request, that’s fine.

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A supervisor for the Burke County De­­partment of Social Services claims she did not know that calling black people bigoted names would offend them—and might even lead to a federal lawsuit. The U.S. Department of Jus­­tice has set her straight on this score.

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Employees who suspect they are facing discipline sometimes think they can stop the process by complaining about some form of alleged discrimination. At the very least, they reason, they can claim they suffered retaliation for reporting discrimination. Smart employers keep careful rec­­ords showing the internal timeline for all employment decisions.

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You don’t tolerate slurs spoken in English, do you? Then don’t put up with vile, intolerant and demeaning speech in other languages. It’s the content that matters, not the language spoken.

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Under the ADA, it’s illegal for employers to discriminate against employees who have a history of drug addiction but who aren’t current users. Before you or anyone else in management comments on suspicions that an employee has backslid, make sure you have evidence to back the claim.

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Some North Carolina employers include an arbitration agreement in their employment policies. Such agreements are legal and enforceable if they form a contract. But employers that include arbitration agreements in their employee handbooks may be making a mistake if they also declare that the handbook itself isn’t a contract.

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