William Sturges

Sometimes, it makes financial sense for companies to engage workers as independent contractors rather than as employees. It can have advantages for workers, too. But whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor has nothing to do with the desires of the organization or the worker. Not even a written contract can make someone an independent contractor if that status isn’t legitimate.

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Q. I have heard that an employee handbook can create a contract between the employer and the employee. Is this true? If so, can this be prevented?

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Q. Are we obligated to provide paid leave so one of our employees can attend a mandatory school meeting concerning his child?

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Q. When there’s even a hint of bad weather, one of our employees goes home. Can we require her to work until the regular quitting time?

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Q. We are a small company and do not have an employee handbook. Are we required to have one?

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In 1970, the federal government passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). Then in 1973, North Carolina passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of North Carolina (OSHANC). The North Carolina act has its own administrative and review procedures that aren’t always similar to its federal counterpart.

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Terminating an employee who has been out on workers’ compensation leave is a high-stakes process. How well you handle it can affect your ongoing workers’ compensation liability—and could also subject you to claims of wrongful discharge or retaliation. It’s made all the more complex by the fact that your workers’ comp carrier’s goals may conflict with yours.

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Q. One of our employees is being harassed by a co-worker, and we are concerned it may get violent. What can we do about this?

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Q. We have an employee who does not work very hard, and her productivity is only mediocre. If we terminate her, will she be able to collect unemployment compensation?

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Q. I understand that consideration is required for noncompete restrictions in North Carolina and that—for existing employees—continued employment is not valid consideration. How much must a company pay to have sufficient consideration?

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