In our business, it’s not about just lawyering. It’s about helping people as much as we can in any way we can.

Work injuries have a terrible way of impacting important areas of your life – your health, your job, your finances, and your family.

We know. We work with injured workers every day and we see their struggles. That’s why we put compassion over case numbers. The firm began that way, and even though we’ve grown to nearly 200 staff including roughly 60 attorneys, that needle hasn’t budged.

1. Compassion That’s Real

We had one client that was out of work and getting workers’ comp checks. As is often the case in workers’ compensation cases, she started to have financial troubles because she was only receiving the statutorily mandated 66% percent of her average weekly wage. She had to give up her car, and she was about to lose her home to foreclosure. The firm worked with her mortgage company, and she was able to keep her home. Crisis averted. With her settlement money1, she bought a car to replace the one she lost.

Next, her injury had to be addressed. While working on her case she was referred to get a medical evaluation, but her insurance company denied that visit. It was obvious to us she needed the evaluation. The firm decided to set up an appointment for her to visit a doctor, and we got a treatment plan accepted by the insurance company.1 Things began to turn around.

When you’ve been injured on the job, you shouldn’t also have to worry about whether the insurance company is going to treat you fairly. That’s why our firm was founded – to assertively advance the cases of clients in the face of adversity.

2. Formidable Size, Personable Attention

Fighting for justice is not just our job – it’s our passion. It’s what gets us out of bed in the morning and keeps us motived day in and day out.

We believe this is among the reasons we’re now one of the largest personal injury law firms in North Carolina. More than 50,000 people have turned to us when faced with injustice, whether workers’ compensation, car accidents, personal injury, Social Security Disability, or eminent domain.

While we have been known to be a formidable force to reckon with in courtrooms and mediation, we maintain a personal and personable one-on-one relationship with each individual client. Why? Because our clients like it that way. And so do we.

One of the best compliments we can get from our clients is when they refer family and friends to us. Referrals are a big part of our business coming from clients, friends, and family members.

We handled a case for a client who fell and suffered significant and permanent injuries.8 When we settled her case, she was overwhelmed by how we took care of her.1 She told us she considered us family.

Read More: Clients often tell us they feel as though they are part of the James Scott Farrin family.

We have some stellar results to show for the good work we do. We’ve recovered over:

  • $1.6 billion total for over 60,000 clients since 19971
  • $185 million total for over 5,000 clients in 2022 alone1

These figures don’t include $1.25 billion we helped 18,400 farmers recover against the U.S. government in a historic class action case.3

3. Impressive Peer and Client Recognitions

When you choose us, you are choosing a recognized, Tier 1-ranked U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” 2022 firm – the highest ranking possible.4

Some of our workers’ comp lawyers have won awards and achieved peer- and client-reviewed designations for 2022, including Best Lawyers in America’s, “Best Lawyers” list and a “Lawyer of the Year” award; and a Super Lawyers Magazine “Super Lawyers.”5, 6

Several of the attorneys in our workers’ comp department are North Carolina State Bar Board Certified Specialist in workers’ comp. Board certification is the highest level of specialization available in NC, and only a very small percentage of NC attorneys can make that claim. Out of the more than 30,500 attorneys licensed to practice in North Carolina, only 152 attorneys are NC board certified in workers’ compensation law – that’s less than 1%.7

One of our workers’ comp attorneys is a former North Carolina state senator and former Deputy Commissioner at the North Carolina Industrial Commission. Others used to work for workers’ compensation defense firms for the insurance companies, and several of our paralegals and other administrative staff have worked for insurance companies, themselves.

4. Workers’ Comp Advocates On and Off the Job

Advocating through various professional and community service organizations is something important to us. From teaching at local colleges to counseling the Spanish-speaking community, we’re always looking to partner with others to improve our communities.

The vast majority of our workers’ comp attorneys are members of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of legal representation in our state. And we’re proud of that because it’s an important way that we show that we care for those living in our communities.

5. Empathy Is in Our Cultural DNA

While we could go on discussing the many achievements, accolades, and designations of our attorneys and staff, and highlighting all their credentials, what I really think sets our firm apart is: we just hire good people.

I’ll never forget something Jim Farrin, our president and firm founder, said when I was hired. “We don’t hire jerks.”

Of course, we make conscientious decisions about who we hire based on professional abilities. But we also value the ability to empathize with people, address a client’s dire predicament, and try to get fair and just results for them.

Empathy at this firm is not icing on the cake. It’s in the batter – in our cultural DNA.

The firm goes to great lengths to try to make the lives of our clients better. Going through a major injury is a big deal. We look at clients’ circumstances as if it were happening to our brother, sister, or any family member. What would we do for our loved one if they were injured? I could tell you countless stories about times we’ve sent flowers to our clients who might have lost a loved one or who’ve celebrated a marriage or a new child, but it goes back to one quality – empathy.

We understand that money can be an obstacle in the pursuit of justice, but not for our clients. Discover how our contingency fee arrangement means you pay no hourly fee and nothing up front.2

Download “Carin’ at Farrin” to see how we extend empathy to each other in the James Scott Farrin family.

Carin' at Farrin

The young daughter of one of our employees was living in South America with her grandparents. The employee is the breadwinner for her family in South America, and she would regularly send money to them. Meanwhile, she was trying to save enough money hoping to be able to afford the expense of bringing her daughter to the United States to live with her. As you can imagine, she missed her daughter terribly. Without this employee’s knowledge, firm employees got together and raised the money to bring her daughter from South America to the United States to finally be reunited with her mother.

They just wanted to do that. That’s the kind of people we are here at James Scott Farrin – real human beings who care.

Questions to Ask Any Workers’ Comp Attorney

Whichever firm you choose, just make sure it is the right fit for you, personally, and for your workers’ comp circumstances. Here is a list of questions we have put together to ask potential attorneys when selecting a workers’ comp attorney.

Watch Now: What Can a Workers’ Comp Attorney Do for Me?

NC Workers’ Comp Attorneys Offer FREE Case Evaluation

We hope this information has been helpful in determining what makes us a great choice. Contact us online about your situation, or call us at 1-866-900-7078. We’ll do our best to try to determine if we can help you.

You should be focusing on getting better after an injury, not navigating an oftentimes frustrating area of law. We have the talent, resources, technology, experience, and passion to fight for you, so reach out today.

 

 

 

3In re Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation, the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin led a team of firms to recover $1.25 billion for African-American farmers from the U. S. government for discrimination.

4Designation was for Workers Compensation practice in the greater Raleigh, North Carolina area. For more information regarding Best Law Firms standards for inclusion, visit www.usnews.com.

5For more information regarding standards for inclusion for “Best Lawyer” and “Lawyer of the Year,” visit www.bestlawyers.com.

6For more information regarding standards for inclusion for “Super Lawyer,” visit www.superlawyers.com.

7Figures by the NC State Bar February 2021.

8Client identities have been removed or changed to protect their privacy.

 

How Does Workers’ Comp Work in SC? An Introduction

Private employers in South Carolina reported nearly 30,000 (nonfatal) workplace injuries and illnesses in 2020. Under South Carolina workers’ compensation laws, employers in South Carolina with four or more employees are generally required to carry workers’ comp insurance.

Workers’ comp is no-fault insurance. That means, even if you were at fault for your work injury, you are generally covered by workers’ comp benefits. These benefits typically include full medical treatment and Disability payments for the period you’re out of work.

What Is Covered by Workers’ Compensation in South Carolina?

Some injuries typically covered by workers’ compensation include:

  • Acute injuries, such as throwing out your back or a slip and fall – Read more about the most common types of workplace injuries and the three top events that result in lost days from work.

Tip: When you suffer an injury or suspect an injury at work, it’s important to inform your supervisor in writing as soon as possible. This is the first step in filing your workers’ comp claim.

  • Repetitive Trauma Claims – These are injuries that are gradual in onset and caused by the cumulative effects of repetitive traumatic events. These claims are often denied when employers and insurance companies dispute that the injury was caused on the job. There can also be difficulties related to injured workers giving their employers adequate notice that the injury or injuries are work related (within 90 days). This happens because these injuries occur over time and employees may not know why they are in pain.
  • Injuries leading to death – Beyond work injuries and repetitive trauma claims, you or a loved one may be killed at work.

Tip: Surviving family members may be entitled to wage replacement benefits for up to 500 weeks, as well as funeral and burial expenses.

South Carolina Workers’ Comp: The 5 Major Players

It’s important to understand the major players in most workers’ compensation claims, as well as how they interact with each other.

Player #1: You

Unfortunately, you’ve suffered an injury at work. You know that workers’ comp is intended to be a safety net for injured workers. You want wage replacement and medical benefits while you heal, and you’re eager to get better, put this behind you, and get back to work. However, when you’re not the only player, even seemingly straightforward situations can get complicated fast.

Player #2: The Employer

While there are some exceptions, the majority of employees are covered by South Carolina’s workers’ compensation employer mandate. After you notify your employer of your injury, they’re required to file a claim with the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission. Meanwhile, your employer’s insurance company has to determine whether or not they will accept your claim.

Player #3: The Insurance Company

The insurance company is represented by the insurance adjuster. Beware: The insurance adjuster knows the law and is trained in identifying possible weaknesses in your claim.

While SC workers’ comp is no-fault, that doesn’t mean that it’s no-fight. Not every injury is covered by workers’ comp. The way your injury was suffered and the exact nature of your injury can mean the difference between an approved and denied claim.

Player #4: The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission (SCWCC)

If the insurance company denies your claim, you can appeal your case to the SCWCC, which is the agency that administers workers’ compensation in South Carolina. First, you can request a hearing with a single commissioner. If you’re unsuccessful at this hearing, you can request that a full panel of commissioners review your claim. To increase your chances of a successful appeal to the SCWCC, seek the help of an experienced attorney.

Player #5: The Attorney

As you can see, it seems like it’s you against two powerful entities with their own financial agendas and a faceless government institution. To level the playing field, you want a workers’ comp attorney in your corner who’s looking out for you. Knowing that your attorney is fighting on your behalf for maximum compensation lets you focus on recovering from your work injury.

What to Do if Your Workers’ Compensation Claim is Denied

Denied claims for workers’ compensation in South Carolina can be appealed to the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission. Said another way, if Player #3 (the insurance company) denies Player #1 (you) coverage for an injury sustained while working for Player #2 (your employer), then Player #5 (an attorney) can help you take your fight before Player #4 (the SCWCC).

Some of the main reasons to appeal to the SCWCC include:

  • Your employer didn’t report your injury to the SCWCC when you notified them
  • Your employer denies your injury was work-related
  • The insurance company is not paying full benefits owed

If you are unsuccessful before the SCWCC, your attorney can bring your case to outside courts, including the South Carolina Court of Appeals and the South Carolina Supreme Court.

How Can a South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Attorney Help You?

A highly-skilled workers’ compensation lawyer can help you in four principal ways:

  1. Making a workers’ compensation claim is often more difficult than many people expect. First, there’s the process of actually filing your claim, including complex paperwork and crucial deadlines. An attorney can help you with this.
  2. An attorney can also be your shield in communicating with the insurance company. Remember that for-profit insurance companies make more by paying out less. Your best interests are not their priority, but an attorney can help you level the playing field.
  3. After you file your claim, you want to get the medical care you need and focus on getting better. Unfortunately, the insurance company gets to direct your care. If you’re not satisfied with it, an attorney may be able to help you get a second opinion or appeal for different care. Nothing is more important than your health.
Tip: Remember that a denial is often not the end of the road. There are multiple levels of appeal your attorney can assist you with.
  1. As you near the end of your medical care, you may receive major pressure to return to work. What if you don’t feel healthy enough to go back? What if your old job isn’t waiting for you? An attorney fights for your best interests every step of the way.

You’re far from alone in the battle for your benefits. Before you agree to anything, schedule an appointment at our Greenville office or call us any time for a free case evaluation at 1-866-900-7078. We have the experience and resources to help you.

 

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It goes without saying that working as a Hollywood stuntman is a considerably more dangerous job on average than working as an accountant. But no matter what you do, many everyday jobs pose considerable health and safety risks, which can result in serious disability and even death.

Some of the most dangerous jobs may surprise you, while others you may have expected. Here is a list of 8 of the most dangerous jobs, according to 2020 numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Fishing and hunting workers have a high fatality rate, followed by loggers and roofers.

1. Fisherman/Hunter

Fatality rate per 100,000 workers: 132.1

Many fishermen and hunters work in incredibly harsh conditions. Fisherman in particular work on the water, where Mother Nature reigns supreme. For every 100,000 fishing and hunting workers, more than 130 will be killed on the job.

71.4% of workplace fatalities among fishing and hunting workers were caused by transportation incidents. For corporate fishermen, manufacturing equipment and accidents are also high on the list of worker’s compensation injury claims.

2. Logger

Fatality rate per 100,000 workers: 91.7

The rate of fatalities per 100,000 logging workers jumped sharply in 2020. In 2019, there were fewer than 70 deaths per 100,000 workers, but in 2020 the rate jumped to over 90 deaths. It’s easy to see why cutting down trees that are hundreds of feet tall, transporting thousands of pounds of wood, and using high-powered saws and other machinery would lead to injuries and fatalities. Workers are also vulnerable to risks from working in high altitudes and inclement weather. Although most loggers are now protected in a cab, the industry is still a dangerous one.

A logger in an orange high-vis jacket using a chainsaw on a log in a forest.3. Roofer

Fatality rate per 100,000 workers: 47.0

The average fatality rate per 100,000 roofers was 51 from 2019-2020. Balancing on top of tall buildings in the blazing sun all day makes you vulnerable to injuries and fatalities from incidents like falls and heat stroke. Add in a strong wind, thunderstorms, and equipment like nail guns and saws, and you increase your opportunities for disaster exponentially. Falls pose the greatest danger to roofers, but they also have an increased likelihood of injuries from fire, electric shock, or heavy machinery, making this one of the most dangerous careers out there.

4. Helpers, Construction Trades

Fatality rate per 100,000 workers: 43.3

There were 976 deaths among employees working in construction and extraction jobs. 771 of those fatalities were construction trade workers. Overall, the construction industry, including building construction, civil engineering, and specialty trade contractors, had just over a thousand deaths (roughly level with the number from 2019). The fatal work injury rate per 100,000 helpers and construction trade workers jumped by 3.3 from 2019 to 2020.

5. Airline Pilot

Fatality rate per 100,000 workers: 34.3

Being an aircraft pilot or flight engineer is dangerous, but 2020 was safer than 2019 in the industry. Per 100,000 workers, the fatality rate dropped from 2019’s 61.8 to 34.3 in 2020. Flying in a plane may be safer than driving in a car for the average person who spends more time in a car and less in a plane – but not for pilots, who boost their odds of being involved in an accident by increasing their time in the air. Human error, malfunctioning machinery, and inclement weather were the primary reasons for injury and death.

Alaska in particular is responsible for many of the fatalities among pilots. Inexperienced pilots or those flying older planes sometimes cannot combat Alaska’s challenging weather conditions and terrain.

6. Sanitation Worker

Fatality rate per 100,000 workers: 33.1

Although this listing might surprise some, refuse and recyclable material collectors often interact with dangerous chemicals and heavy machines designed to compress trash or other materials. In 2020, about 33 people were killed per 100,000 workers in the occupation. Sometimes, hazardous waste and sharp materials can also lead to serious injuries short of death.

But it turns out the biggest threat to these workers is other drivers on the road. Remember, sanitation workers have to hop off and on their truck frequently. Many have suffered injuries or even death when other drivers tried to pass them hurriedly on the road, either hitting them or the truck they were in.

7. Iron and Steel Worker/Miner

Fatality rate per 100,000 workers: 32.5

Collapses are one of the most common dangers structural iron and steel workers face, as well as falls and electrocutions from contact with power lines. Similarly, miners and extraction workers are often either crushed under falling debris, or they are exposed to noxious gases and other fumes. From 2016-2020, 255 workers were killed.

8. Truckers/Deliverymen

Fatality rate per 100,000 workers: 25.8

In both 2019 and 2020, the fatality rate per 100,000 truck and sales drivers was about 26. One of the challenges for this industry is that the trucks must be in tip-top shape and drivers must receive adequate sleep and rest. In the hustle and bustle of shipping, sometimes corners are cut, putting drivers in a dangerous position. Spending a lot of time on the road greatly increases your chances of being in an accident and being injured or killed.

Truck drivers are especially vulnerable because they are driving large trucks that are heavy and are hard to maneuver on the road. They have limited sight distance and are unable to move or stop as quickly. Drivers who are given unsafe vehicles or who are pushed to drive for long hours without rest are at additional risk.

Long Hours on the Road: Taxi/Rideshare Drivers

With the amount of time taxi/rideshare drivers spend on the road, their risk of a car accident is also significantly increased. Plus, these drivers can find themselves at the mercy of their passengers.

Injured at Work? You May Be Entitled to Workers’ Compensation

Whether or not you see your job on this list, you have the chance of being injured at work. There are many common types of work injuries, regardless of your profession. If you’ve been hurt on the job, you should file a workers’ compensation claim.

Learn More: Types of Workers’ Comp Benefits

There are many dangerous occupations and many ways to get injured doing them. If you’ve been hurt, you should have an attorney evaluate your case for free. To speak with a real person any time, call 1-866-900-7078.

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A lot of people think that “right to work laws” and “employment-at-will” are the same thing. The truth is that they are completely separate, and the differences between them have a profound effect on workers. They also impact how employees can pursue a case for compensation against their employers.

Functionally, one of these North Carolina employment laws has almost nothing to do with most cases, and the other may have everything to do with them. Here’s what you should know.

Is North Carolina a Right to Work State?

Yes. What most people don’t know is that “right to work” is all about labor unions and how non-union workers are treated. North Carolina’s right to work law (NC G.S 95-78) greatly limits the power of labor unions in the state by making certain arrangements illegal.

The statute says: “The right to live includes the right to work. The right to work shall not be denied or abridged on account of membership or non-membership in any labor union or organization.”

There are several ways that labor unions can affect employment for individuals in states without right to work laws. These examples are all illegal in North Carolina.

It's illegal in NC to force new employees to join a union.

The “Union Shop” Arrangement

The first union-related arrangement that North Carolina’s laws ban is the so-called “union shop.” Under this arrangement, an employee hired to work at a company whose labor force is unionized must join that union and pay union dues. In return, the employee gains the union’s collectively bargained rights and benefits.

It's illegal in NC to force new employees to pay full dues if not in a union.

The “Agency Shop” Arrangement

Under the “agency shop” arrangement, a worker hired by a company with a unionized workforce is not required to join that union. However, that employee is required to pay an amount equal to the union dues. In return, the employee again gains the union’s collectively-bargained rights and benefits.

It's illegal in NC to force new employees to pay partial dues if not in a union.

The “Fair Share” Arrangement

The “fair share” arrangement does not require a worker to join a union or pay full union dues in order to work at an employer with a unionized workforce. The new worker is only required to pay a portion of the union dues that, theoretically, fairly compensates the union for its efforts in collective bargaining for benefits for the workforce. The new employee gets those benefits.

What Effect Does NC Right to Work Law Have on Union Labor?

Logically, the right to work law in North Carolina severely limits labor unions. That’s not to say they do not exist. There are 385 labor unions active in the state of North Carolina. However, compare that number to a state without right to work laws, like Illinois, where there are more than 2,900 unions and you can see the effect of the law.

A right to work state like NC has 385 labor unions while a union friendly state like IL has 2900.

All things considered, however, it is difficult to imagine a situation where a worker might file a lawsuit based on North Carolina’s right to work laws. The laws governing the activities that might trigger a lawsuit are the state’s employment at will laws.

What Does At-Will Employment Mean in North Carolina?

Under at-will employment in North Carolina (also known as employment at will), employment is an agreement between the employer and the worker, and can be created or terminated at the will of either party. In other words, an employer can terminate a worker for no reason and a worker can quit for no reason at any time.

Generally speaking, the employment at will arrangement is friendlier to employers, and allows them greater flexibility to make sudden reductions in their workforces to save on costs. However, there are exceptions to the employment at will law that you should be aware of.

Employment Contracts Generally Replace Employment at Will in North Carolina

If you have an employment contract, the rules for why you can be terminated and the process required to resign will likely be detailed in the contract. Because you and your employer agreed to a contract, you’re no longer employed at will. Consult your contract for the terms of your employment, or an attorney if you’re having a problem.

Can an Employer in North Carolina Fire Me for Any Reason?

Employers can generally terminate employees at will, but exceptions do exist. There are cases in which North Carolina’s employment at will laws do not apply, and for a variety of different reasons. These include (but are not necessarily limited to):

  • Discrimination – Employers cannot discriminate against protected classes as outlined by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, including race, color, religion, national origin, and sex (including pregnancy, gender identification, and sexual orientation). North Carolina law adds HIV/AIDS diagnosis/status, military service, sickle cell anemia or hemoglobin C diagnosis/status, and users of a lawful substances as protected classes as well.
  • Retaliation – Under the Retaliation in Employment Discrimination Act, an employer may not fire you because you were injured at work and made a worker’s compensation claim. Also, if you took time off to file a domestic violence restraining order, made a safety complaint to OSHA, NCDOL, or because your employer is violating mine safety, pesticide law, or proper storage of drug paraphernalia, your employer can not retaliate by firing you.

If you were wrongfully terminated or discriminated against, you should consult with an employment law attorney to figure out if you have a case and what compensation you may be able to seek.

The State Personnel Act, “Just Cause,” and Other Exceptions to Employment at Will

State employees, generally speaking, are not “employed at will” in North Carolina. Their employment terms are governed by the State Personnel Act. Without delving too deeply into the details, once most state employees have passed a probationary period at the beginning of their employment, they can only be terminated for “just cause,” which is specified in the statute.

State entities and municipalities may also pass ordinances that change the status of their employees away from employment at will.

If You Believe You Were Wrongfully Fired, Contact an Attorney

No matter where you are employed, there’s always the possibility that you may be mistreated or terminated from your job unfairly. You should not let an employer unfairly take away your ability to make a living, and that can happen (and sadly does happen).

This blog is not an exhaustive guide, but should serve to give you a good idea of the difference between “right to work” and “employment at will” in North Carolina. I encourage you to contact an attorney if you believe your rights have been violated. Sometimes, it can be hard for the average person to even know when they’ve been unfairly treated.

As an employment law attorney, I can say with confidence that it happens often. Fight back if it happens to you. You can always call us at 1-866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation. You shouldn’t stop looking for a better job – there’s almost always one out there – but don’t let someone violate your employment rights either!

You may assume that there are laws in North Carolina dictating who is entitled to paid vacation days or ensuring that all employees receive paid time off for nationally recognized holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

A black pen on an employment contract attached to a blue clipboard.There are no NC labor laws on vacation pay, and there are no NC labor laws regarding holiday pay, either. On a federal level, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require employers to pay employees for hours that they did not work, and this includes holidays and vacation days.

It has been my experience as an employment law attorney that employees must be uber-vigilant when contracting with their employers about the specifics of their job, benefits, and pay. If your employment contract includes vacation time, you should be paid for any earned vacation time. And if your contract includes time off or extra pay for working holiday hours, you should be compensated for that work. If you are not, your employer may be taking advantage of you.

Worker Protections for Holiday and Vacation Days

While you are not entitled by law to receive pay for holiday and vacation days, you do have rights regarding your pay that you need to protect.

Employer discrimination against a person or group when making vacation and holiday pay decisions is regulated by law. If an employer offers vacation pay to some employees and not to others, there may be a pattern and practice of discrimination.

There are several federal laws that specifically deal with employment discrimination:

  • The Civil Rights Act (Title VII) protects employees from discrimination in compensation based on race, color, religion, national origin, and sex.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects workers with disabilities.
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) protects pregnant workers.
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects workers who are 40 years or older.

Discrimination has no place in the workplace. The employment law team at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin fights hard for employees who feel that their employers have made discriminatory decisions about their vacation and holiday pay.

In this article, I will share with you several questions about vacation and holiday pay that I have encountered when helping clients determine if their employers are treating them, and paying them, fairly. Read on to learn more.

What Are the North Carolina Labor Laws on Vacation Pay?

There are no North Carolina laws that require employers to offer their employees vacation pay. Instead, the law states that employers are under no obligation to provide vacation pay.

“No employer is required to provide vacation pay plans for employees.” Source: N.C. General Statute 95-2.12

It is important to note that North Carolina law does require employers to communicate their established pay policies with their employees.

Female employee looking at a large cork bulletin board at work.“In North Carolina, an employer must make available to its employees, in writing or through a posted notice maintained in a place accessible to its employees, employment practices and policies with regard to promised wages.“ Source: N.C. General Statute 95-25.13(2)

Furthermore, if your employer does not notify you of any policy or practice that results in loss of vacation time or pay, the statute states that you are not subject to the loss of that vacation time or pay. Additionally, if you have already earned vacation time, your employer cannot retroactively change the policy. They can only apply it moving forward.

Because NC does not mandate vacation pay, the details of how much vacation time you may get and how it is allocated are dictated by what you and your employer have agreed to do, or not do, in your employment contract. I encourage you to have an experienced employment law attorney carefully review the specific terms of your employment offer and contract if you feel that you employer may not be paying you fairly.

What NC Labor Laws Regarding Holiday Pay Are There?

There are no North Carolina laws requiring your employer to give you time off (paid or unpaid) for holidays. Also, employers are not required by law to pay you extra “holiday pay” if you work on a holiday. The law considers holidays to be just like other business days, and your employer is allowed to decide whether you have to work on these days if you work for a private company. However, the majority of North Carolina employers tend to observe at least six paid holidays.

Many employers observe certain holidays by closing down their offices, and some may pay their workers for these days off, while others may not. Employers may decide to pay holiday pay for one type of employee, such as full-time workers, and regular pay for another classification of employee, such as part-time workers. This is usually legal and up to the employer to decide. But employers cannot discriminate against protected classes when making these decisions – the decisions cannot be based on your race, color, religion, national origin, and/or sex.

As with vacation pay, North Carolina law requires employers to communicate their established holiday pay and leave policies with their employees. Look at your employment agreement and at any posters placed in common areas at work and take note of exactly what they say.

Your employer should indicate in your employment contract which, if any, holidays you have off, and if you were to be paid for that time off.

Check your benefits package, employee manual, or employment contract to see what your employer’s policy is for paying for holiday work. If there has been no communication about this or your employer is not following the policy, let an employment law attorney know. North Carolina law requires employers to communicate their wage benefit policies in writing.

If I Am a Government Employee, Do I Get Paid Holidays?

If you are an employee of the North Carolina government, you are entitled to a maximum of 11 paid holidays off, except when Christmas falls on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. In those cases, N.C. General Statute 126-4 states the employees are entitled to a maximum of 12 paid holidays off.

Are There North Carolina PTO Laws?

PTO, or Paid Time Off, is not regulated by law in North Carolina. Just as with vacation and holiday time off and pay, employers are only required to honor the terms of their employment policies and contracts if they elect to offer PTO. The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law that covers unpaid time off and entitlement to unpaid time off.

North Carolina allows employers to implement a use-it-or-lose-it policy for employee PTO. A use-it-or-lose-it PTO policy states that you must use your PTO by a certain date or risk losing it — no rolling it over to the next year and no cashing it out. This type of policy limits your employer’s payout liability to employees who don’t use their PTO for vacation or sick time.

The state of North Carolina requires employers to post notices in writing of any policy, such as this one, so that you are fully aware of the policy before their time expires. If your employer does not comply with this requirement, you may miss out on pay that you have earned.

Do You Have to Be Paid for Unused Vacation Time?

North Carolina does not require employers to pay employees for unused, or accrued, time off. An employer’s policy or employment contract governs whether earned, unused vacation is paid on separation. However, if your employment policy and contract do not specifically address what happens to accrued vacation time, then your employer must generally pay you for unused vacation time upon termination.

An experienced employment law attorney can review your employment contract and policies and advise you on whether your employer may owe you accrued vacation pay.

Am I Entitled to Vacation Pay if I Quit?

While there are no specific NC labor laws on vacation pay after quitting, you may be entitled to your unused vacation pay, even if you quit.

Some companies have a policy of paying departing employees for any accrued vacation time they have not used, and other companies don’t. It all boils down to what is or is not stated in the company policy.

Companies who neglect to outline and communicate a policy for dealing specifically with accrued vacation time and termination are generally required to pay you any accrued vacation pay.

How Can I Determine if My Rights Were Violated?

If your employer is not following the guidelines set in your employment contract, they are possibly violating your employee rights. These rights may also be in danger if you can identify a pattern of discrimination in who gets paid vacation days and holidays.

If you have accrued vacation days and holidays that your employer refuses to pay when you separate from the company, double check your employment contract closely to see if this is a violation. Your employer has until the following regularly scheduled pay period to pay you all remaining earned wages, such as eligible vacation pay.

Employers often have the advantage of power and resources in the employer-employee relationship. I suggest that you try to upset that imbalance by seeking the advice of an experienced employment law attorney.

Why Should I Hire a Lawyer if I Believe My Rights Were Violated?

If you think your employer is treating you unfairly in terms of vacation and holiday pay, a lawyer can help you understand if you have a viable case and guide you through the process of fighting for your employee rights.

Critical things an employment lawyer can do for you include:

  • Reviewing your employment contract and deciphering its legal jargon to determine what exactly you and your employer have agreed to in terms of holiday and vacation pay
  • Trying to identify patterns of behavior that may prove a practice of employer discrimination
  • Building a possible case to claim unpaid wages

If you decide to file a complaint against your employer, an attorney can help you gather evidence, follow proper procedures, and file the complaint with the appropriate office.

You may be asking yourself, “Can I afford an attorney?” At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, there are no up-front costs or hourly fees to worry about. Instead, we work on a contingency fee basis, which means we only collect an attorney’s fee if we are able to obtain you compensation, and that fee is a percentage of the total amount recovered for you.2

What Kind of Compensation Could I Receive?

The amount of compensation you may receive largely depends on the agreement you made with your employer when you accepted the position. Did you employer agree to pay you for accrued vacation pay upon termination? Were policies about paid holidays and PTO specified in the contract? The terms of your employment contract should dictate if and how you are to be compensated for vacation and holiday pay.

If you are not receiving your earned vacation or holiday time, your employer may be taking advantage of you, and it may be a warning sign that they are violating other wage laws as well. If you are concerned about your employer’s behavior, I urge you to get a free case evaluation today.

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When considering what constitutes full-time work in North Carolina, it’s important to understand that this is an at-will employment state. What does that mean? According to the NC Department of Labor, employment at-will means employers can treat employees pretty much however they want. They can assign demeaning tasks and fire you for virtually any reason (or no reason at all) as long as it is not for an impermissible, retaliatory, or discriminatory reason. Basically, employers have most of the leverage and power.

And that power largely extends to determining what qualifies as full-time hours.

How Many Hours Is Full Time in NC?

Under North Carolina law, your employer gets to decide how many hours qualifies you as a full-time employee. As long as the hours are laid out and applied consistently, the definition of full-time is almost entirely at your employer’s discretion.

Did You Know? While many people think of full-time as 40 hours a week, things are not defined that way under NC law. Full-time in NC is generally whatever your employer says it is.

It can be an odd concept to wrap your brain around. How many hours per day do you need to work before you’re considered full time? Your employer decides. How many hours per week before you earn the designation of full-time employee? Your employer decides. What additional responsibilities do you need to fulfill to be considered a full-time employee? Your employer decides.

Tip: While employers get to decide the definition of full time, the number “40” does carry some weight. Under federal and state law, non-exempt workers must be paid overtime for hours worked over 40 in a span of seven days.

Does the 2020 NC Overtime Law Change Help Me or Hurt Me?

It helps you if you are an overworked but underpaid salaried employee. Under the 2020 NC overtime law change, being a salaried employee does not necessarily exclude you from overtime pay requirements. If you are a salaried employee who worked in excess of 40 hours for a workweek, you may be entitled to overtime pay unless you are exempt.

To be exempt, a salaried employee — typically executives, supervisors, administrators, and certain professionals — must be guaranteed a salary of at least $684 per workweek and either have real managerial duties, make policy decisions, or be part of certain professions. If you are salaried, do not have those duties, make less than that per week, and are required to work overtime, you are likely entitled to time and a half for all hours over 40.

What About for Insurance Under the Affordable Care Act?

If a company has 50 or more full time employees, they are required under federal law to provide certain health insurance benefits to each of their full time employees. For these purposes, federal law is paramount, and you are considered full time at 30 hours a week or more. Employers who misclassify employees in order to avoid providing benefits are subject to serious penalties. Outside of this consideration and a few others, state employment law sets the rules.

Do you feel you are being taken advantage of, or do you need help interpreting the complicated legalese of your employment agreement? See if we can help with a free case evaluation.

Am I Entitled to Benefits as a Full-time Employee in North Carolina?

Under North Carolina law, working full time doesn’t entitle you to anything except what your employer says it entitles you to. For example, your employer does not need to provide a raise once you achieve full-time status. Remember that federal law imposes a mandate regarding health benefits specifically once you reach full-time under the rules of the Affordable Care Act (30+ hours).

Your employer may offer benefits to part-time employees, full-time employees, both, or neither, so long as it is all decided in advance, applies to all people who are categorized that way equally, and the employer abides by whatever was decided. Now, most commonly, you may see employers going the traditional route of a 40-hour schedule and benefits for full-time employees. But this would be an “incentive” by the employer to lure in the best candidates, not a requirement under North Carolina law.

How Many Hours Is Part Time in NC?

An employer can set up nearly any part-time vs. full-time structure they like, so long as they clearly communicate and abide by this policy. Indeed, the distinction has such little meaning under North Carolina law that your employer can switch you from full to part time at will — without informing you — so long as you keep everything you earned until the switch. If you don’t like it, the theory goes, you are free to quit at will.

If you are non-exempt, there is no minimum number of hours for which you must be paid and no minimum number of hours for which you must be scheduled.

If a part-time non-exempt employee comes in or is called in for a shift but then is sent home, the employer is only responsible for the time the employee was doing work or waiting to do work. If you are paid hourly and are non-exempt, you’re not entitled to any payment for the time and inconvenience of travel, even if it’s for a short shift, or infrequent shift, or unexpected shift.

In fact, even if you travel a long way on your employer’s request and show up for work, but your employer meets you at the door to the business and tells you to go back home, you are not entitled to anything. However, if your employer provides minimum payments or hours as part of written company policy or your specific employment agreement, then they are bound by those terms. Additionally, if you are salaried and categorized as exempt, your employer cannot dock your pay for not having work for you to do, or for sending you home. If this is happening to you, you may be misclassified as exempt.

What Happens if a Part-time Employee Works Full-time Hours?

Part time in North Carolina does not mean there is a cap on hours. In addition, your employer can:

  • Adjust your hours at will, even after they’re scheduled
  • Make you work days, nights, or weekends as a condition of employment
  • Have you work an unlimited number of days in a row, as long as they pay you overtime
  • Assign you a shift of however many hours they choose, and as many of that type of shift as they choose
  • Call you in on your day off
  • Make you work overtime with no advance notice
  • Assign you a shift that interferes with a critical event in your personal life

Am I Powerless at Work?

Outside of any employment contract, you have two main wage protections under federal and state law. These protections apply to both salaried and hourly employees:

  • You are entitled to at least minimum wage. The minimum wage is currently $7.25.
  • You are entitled to overtime (time and a half) for hours worked over 40 in the week if you are a non-exempt employee.
Even tipped employees must be paid minimum wage, but their employer may combine their hourly wage with tips to reach this number. If you have questions, contact an employment law lawyer.

What Happens to ACA-Mandated Medical Benefits When a Full Time Employee Is Not Working Full Time Hours?

What happens if an employee is classified as full-time but only works part-time hours for several weeks? Do they risk losing their benefits?

Here’s how it works: Employees are measured by their employers periodically to determine their average hours. Following the measurement period is an enrollment period. The enrollment stage is followed by a stability period, where changes can only be made to coverage in extreme circumstances.

If you are determined to be full-time under the ACA during a particular measurement period, you can register for benefits. If you enroll in a coverage plan, this plan will apply for the entire stability period (often a calendar year) even if you drop to part-time during that time. If, at the next measurement period, your overall hours for the period do not average at least 30 per week, then your employer may drop you from coverage for the next stability period.

What Is the Minimum Number of Hours for Full Time? The Maximum?

There is no minimum or maximum number of hours for full-time employees under NC labor laws. If your employer says you are full time, you are full time. Your employment agreement or company policies may have rules specific to your workplace or position.

Employer Leverage Is Not Unlimited

While at-will employment can leave a North Carolina worker vulnerable, you still have rights. If your employer offers male employees full-time benefits but keeps all the women at part time with no benefits, for example, you can still fight back. And you should.

If you have questions about your particular situation, request a free case evaluation by calling 1-866-900-7078 or chatting with someone 24/7/365. An attorney can help you level the playing field.

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Are there specific NC laws for salaried employees? What about for exempt employees? And what’s the difference between a salaried employee and an exempt employee? As a North Carolina employment law attorney, I hear many questions like these. And most of the time, people are trying to get a handle on whether or not they are eligible for overtime pay.

Below I have answered some of the most common questions I have been asked by exempt workers who are unsure whether their employers are treating them fairly, or even classifying them accurately. I’ll start with an overview of the NC exempt employee guidelines and then drill down into more detail as the questions get more specific.

My intent is to explain a bit about the basics of NC labor laws on overtime exemption to help you understand what your rights are as an exempt employee. If you need guidance in protecting those rights, please contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin for a free case evaluation. We are here to help.

What Is an Exempt Employee and Who Falls Into This Category?

Exempt employees are workers who do not qualify for federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) provisions, which means that:Exempt employees do not receive overtime pay.

  • They aren’t required to make at least the federal minimum wage for all hours worked
  • They don’t qualify for overtime pay of at least time and a half of regular pay for all hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek

The North Carolina Wage and Hour Act (NCWHA) follows these same federal guidelines.

To be an exempt employee, you must meet all three of the following qualifications in North Carolina:

  • You must be salaried.

This means you must have a consistent and designated rate of pay regardless of how many hours you work.

  • Your salary must be at least $684 per week or $35,568 per year.

If you are a “computer-related” employee, you may be paid $27.63 per hour instead.

  • Your job must meet a specific duties test.

Your position must include specific duties assigned to “white collar” employees (executive, administrative, or professional), “computer-related” employees, or “outside sales” employees.

Exempt computer-related employees are those who are primarily engaged in computer systems analysis and programming, such as computer systems analysts, computer programmers, and software engineers.

Exempt employees get paid ≥$684/week. Non-exempt employees qualify for overtime & minimum wage.

Do not be fooled by your title. Just because you have been given the title of “manager” does not mean you automatically fall under the “white collar” exempt classification. The law requires examination of your job responsibilities, in addition to your title, to determine if you are exempt from wage and overtime laws.

The following are some of the factors considered:

  • Do you regularly supervise two or more employees?
  • Do you have the power to hire and fire employees?
  • Is your opinion on personnel matters given additional weight?
  • Do you primarily work with customers?

If you have the title of “manager” and your employer has classified you as exempt, but you are spending less than half of your time at work performing some of the above tasks, your classification may be wrong. You may be entitled to recover wages if your employer has misclassified you as an exempt employee. Call the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin at 1-866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation.

Salaried Does Not Mean the Same Thing as Exempt

You can be salaried and exempt, but these words are not synonymous. Salaried refers to the payment structure of being paid a fixed amount of money per year. And this is only one of the three requirements of being exempt. Exempt refers to not being eligible to receive overtime pay or qualify for minimum wage. To be exempt, your job must meet the $684/week minimum requirement and meet the duties tests described above, in addition to being salaried.

Salaried employees received a predetermined amount of pay each pay period on a consistent basis.

There is a common misperception that all non-exempt employees are paid on an hourly basis. Under the FLSA, non-exempt employees can be paid hourly, salaried, piecemeal, on commission, etc. as long as their weekly pay equals at least minimum wage for hours worked.

Therefore, you can be salaried and non-exempt at the same time. For example, if you are paid a weekly salary of at least $290 (minimum wage of $7.25/hour x 40 hours) and your employer designates you as a “salaried, non-exempt” employee, you could still be entitled to overtime pay under the FLSA even though you are salaried.

You cannot be paid hourly and exempt at the same time because being salaried is one of three qualifications you must meet to be exempt.

Types of Exempt Occupations

In general, occupations that involve “white collar” duties are exempt if they are salaried and make more than $684/week. This can include teachers, human resources administrators, scientists, executives, managers, artists, inventors, lawyers, and doctors. In some instances, jobs involving “outside sales” or “computers” that have a $684/week minimum salary may be exempt, as well.

There are multiple industries that you may assume have non-exempt employees that instead generally have exempt employees. These include:

  • Farm workers (as long as they are not minors)
  • Seasonal amusement and recreational businesses workers
  • Fishing, railway, and transportation services employees
  • Apprentices
  • Workers with disabilities
  • Employees of small newspapers
  • Broadcasters
  • Live-in domestic workers
  • Many others that may not seem intuitive

Do Exempt Employees Get Overtime?

No, if you are an exempt employee in North Carolina, you do not qualify for overtime pay.

There are good and bad things about being an exempt employee. On the positive side, you generally will earn more money as an exempt employee than you would if you are working at a non-exempt job. If you break down the minimum wage level for exempt employees ($684/week) to an hourly amount ($684/40 hours = $17.10/hour), you will be paid above the $7.25/hour minimum wage as an exempt employee unless you work 94 hours a week.

However, it also means that you are not eligible for overtime and your employer can pay you less than minimum wage. If you work 40 or 100 hours, you would still get paid the same thing. That may mean that you may work a lot more hours as an exempt employee without additional compensation.

If you are non-exempt, you may get a lower wage, but the law states that you will at least get minimum wage for each hour worked and that you are paid time and half for any hours over 40. That also means your employer may think twice before asking you to work more than 40 hours.

What Laws Are Specific to North Carolina’s Exempt Employees?

The public policy behind the NCWHA is to “protect those who, as a matter of economic reality, are dependent upon the business to which they render service.” State law largely mirrors the FLSA, but has additional protections.

For example, North Carolina exempt employee laws require that employers generally must:

  • Prove that an employee is exempt by “clear and convincing evidence”
  • Pay wages when due and on a regular pay day
  • Provide 24-hour prior notice for reduction in pay and must provide notice of compensation policies and practices
  • Pay accrued vacation pay

Employers are not generally required to pay exempt employees overtime, comp time, or minimum wage or provide paid-for breaks under NC and federal law. The employer is actually “exempt” from following those laws.

When Can Employers Not Pay an Exempt Employee?

This is an important question. North Carolina labor laws for exempt employees state that an exempt employee must be paid “a predetermined amount constituting all or part of their compensation … without regard to the number of days or hours worked.”

If your employer is deducting amounts from your paycheck for things such as lost equipment costs, time away from work for personal reasons, jury duty, or other things, this may be a sign that you have been misclassified as exempt.

There are valid deductions your employer can make to your pay, according to the law for NC exempt salaried employees. The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor lists the following valid circumstances in which an employer may make deductions from an exempt employee’s pay:

  • Penalties imposed in good faith for infractions of safety rules of major significance
  • Unpaid disciplinary suspension for violations of workplace conduct rules, such as sexual harassment or workplace violence
  • Theft, which if proven, can also reduce your wage below minimum wage
  • To offset amounts received as a jury member or witness, or for military pay
  • Full salary for the first or final week of employment
  • One or more full-day absences for a personal reason other than sickness or disability
  • One or more full-day absences due to sickness or disability if the deduction is made according to a bona fide plan, policy, or practice of providing compensation for salary lost due to illness.

In addition, employers may generally make pay deductions for exempt and non-exempt employees for the reasonable cost of furnishing employees with board, lodging, meals at a company restaurant, dorm rooms and tuition for student employees, general merchandise furnished at a company store, and fuel and transportation for personal use. Employers are also not required to pay bonuses that have not accrued at the time of the employee’s last day.

What Are Invalid Deductions for Exempt Employees?

If you are an NC salaried exempt employee and your employer made deductions from your pay for the following circumstances, your rights as an exempt employee may have been violated:

  • Absences caused by your employer or by the operational needs of the business (such as your boss closing the store early because there are no customers that day)
  • Absences for sickness or disability, unless it is part of an unpaid FMLA claim
  • Deductions for the quality or hours of work performed (unless for a full day off for personal reasons or FMLA leave)
  • Deductions for lost or broken equipment

Employers are not generally permitted by law to deduct pay from any employee (exempt or non-exempt) for any equipment, tools, or uniform required by the employer or for transportation costs that are a part of the job.

How Many Hours Can a Salaried Employee Be Forced to Work in North Carolina?

There is no maximum limit to the number of hours a salaried employee can be asked to work.

North Carolina law does not set the maximum hours that exempt, or salaried, employees are allowed to work in a day. The important distinction is not whether someone is salaried, but whether they are exempt or non-exempt.

Have you been misclassified? Employers may misclassify employees as exempt when, in fact, they are really non-exempt. If this has happened to you, it may mean that your company owes you hours of overtime pay that they are legally required to pay you. If your work is not managerial, administrative, or professional and not one of the specifically designated exemptions, your employer may have misclassified you as exempt and may owe you money. Also, if you make anything less than $684 a week, you are generally non-exempt. I urge you to talk to an employment law attorney as soon as possible!
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Are There Any Protections for Exempt Employees?

Yes, exempt and non-exempt employees are equally protected by all employment laws – with the exception of overtime and minimum wage provisions which only apply to non-exempt employees. That means that the anti-discrimination employment laws (such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, ADEA, EPA, ADA, PDA),  FMLA, OSHA, workers’ compensation, unemployment compensation, and retaliation laws for reporting violations of the law, as well as many other laws, still protect exempt employees.

At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, we can help you fight for your rights as an exempt employee and provide guidance on next steps if you’ve been misclassified by your employer. Call us today at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us online for a free case evaluation.

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As we gear up for Thanksgiving and the year-end holiday travel season, our Durham car accident lawyers want to take a time-out to urge you and your loved ones to make safety a top priority.

Car on a road in a misty forest with its headlights on.Although we often hear about the awful wrecks that occur on our highways, a study by AAA Carolinas indicates that more traffic deaths in North Carolina occur on rural roads. Although rural roads accounted for a low amount of the vehicle miles traveled, they accounted for an outsized portion of the state’s traffic fatalities.

And a recent report by NPR indicated that of the nation’s approximately 37,250 annual traffic fatalities, nearly 60 percent occur on rural roads. In some states, more than 90 percent of car accident related deaths occur on rural roads. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that drivers on rural roads die at a rate of 2.5 times higher per mile they travel than those on urban highways. In other words, those who travel in urban areas drive twice as many miles but suffer about half the number of fatal accidents.

Why is this?

For one thing, rural roads tend to be narrower. They may have lower shoulders, more curves, faded or non-existent road markers and street lights and far fewer police officers patrolling. This means people may be more likely to speed or take these routes if they are intoxicated – putting you and your family at risk.

The most dangerous rural road in the country has been identified as a stretch of lone highway in Utah. In the last 10 years, there have reportedly been more than 520 fatal accidents on that road. Of those, NPR reported:

  • 117 were at night;
  • 280 were during the day;
  • 260 were in clear weather conditions;
  • 84 were in poor weather conditions;
  • 9 involved crashes with animals;
  • 32 cases involved a DUI;
  • 46 involved driver fatigue;
  • 145 involved speeding;
  • 288 involved driving off the road.

In North Carolina, 1,658 people were killed in crashes in 2020. This was nearly a 13% increase from 2019. For Thanksgiving 2020, there were more than 2,700 crashes, resulting in more than 1100 injuries. That’s just one five-day period. And while the overall number of crashes was down from 2019, fatalities were up.

As you might expect, alcohol factored into some of these crashes. For Thanksgiving 2020, 17% of fatalities were alcohol-related. Fortunately, over the past five Thanksgivings, 17% is the lowest reported number of alcohol-related deaths. 35% of fatalities from crashes were alcohol-related in 2018.

Christmas 2020 saw a whopping 2,828 crashes across the state. Nearly 1,200 people were injured in these traffic accidents. The worst year over the past five for Christmas injuries was 2018, with 1,408. Christmas 2018 also saw the most crashes, with Christmas 2020 coming in second.

New Years driving, covering a short period from December 31, 2019 through January 1, 2020, resulted in 702 crashes across North Carolina. Nearly half of those had associated injuries and fatalities. New Years 2020 was the worst one for crashes since 2016. As with the other holidays, unbelted drivers and passengers made up most of the crash fatalities (86%).

So wherever your travel takes you this year, please use extreme caution. First and foremost, wear a seatbelt. 65% of traffic fatalities on Thanksgiving 2020 involved unbelted drivers and passengers.

If you’ve been injured, contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin for a free and confidential consultation. Call 1-866-900-7078.

We hear this question all the time. You’re working here in North Carolina, but what about a break? Do break laws in North Carolina even exist? Is your employer required to offer you a break for a meal or otherwise?

The simple answer is no, unless it is break time for nursing mothers. Of course, it’s never quite that simple. Most of North Carolina’s employment law – and the rules regarding breaks – are contained in North Carolina Law. But read on for some straightforward facts.

Is It Illegal to Not Give Employees Breaks?

No, it is not illegal for employers to not offer their employees age 16 or older breaks per the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act. Furthermore, the NCDOL does not interpret the Federal Labor Standards Act as requiring employers to provide mandatory rest breaks or meal breaks regardless of age.

However, many employers do have policies regarding break times, meal breaks, and more. If an employer offers short breaks, federal law indicates that they must pay for them. All breaks that are 20 minutes or less you must be paid for.

If you believe your employer is violating North Carolina break law, you should contact an experienced employment law attorney. Call 1-866-900-7078 or contact us for a free and confidential case evaluation.

Working Time vs. Break Time in North Carolina Law

So, when are you on break versus working if short breaks are offered (and therefore paid) by your employer? North Carolina break laws contain no specifics, but federal law does.

Let’s say that you are at work. Your next task must wait for another task to finish, and so you are doing something other than work. In this case, you’re working and must be paid. This isn’t technically a break – though it seems like one. This is because you are waiting “predominantly for the benefit of the employer.”

For example, a nurse or a firefighter often have idle time between tasks. A nurse may be waiting for a patient to undergo scans, or a firefighter may be at their station, waiting for the next fire alarm, but they are required to be at work. Because they are required to be at work and required to be ready for that next task, they’re considered working under federal law. In some cases, these wait times will exceed 20 minutes. However, they’re not technically on a break, so it doesn’t matter.

This is not to be confused with on-call work. That falls under the purview of North Carolina Wage and Hours law.

North Carolina Law on Lunch Breaks – Are They Mandatory?

Even though there are no NC labor laws regarding lunch breaks, employers may offer them. However, those meal breaks must be longer than 20 minutes, usually at least 30 minutes in length for the employer not to pay for them. Generally, the employer cannot restrict the employee to its premises, either.

If your employer does not pay you, they cannot expect you to work. In other words, if you’re genuinely clocked out, so to speak, you should not be waiting on customers or calls or otherwise doing work. You should be fully relieved of job duties. This is not always true if you are allowed to go home but are still on call. Otherwise, if you have job duties while you are on break, you must be paid for it.

North Carolina Law on Short Rest Breaks – What Constitutes a Break?

Most employers offer short breaks to allow employees to do things that enable them to function or personal comfort. This includes restroom breaks, a break to grab or refill a water bottle, make a quick phone call, or have a snack.

These breaks generally must be 20 minutes or shorter and not interfere with the employee’s ability to work. Under federal law, your employer should pay you for these short breaks. Make sure you know your employer’s policies and follow them regarding breaks.

North Carolina Law on Smoke Breaks – Am I Entitled to One?

North Carolina does not require employers to offer breaks for employees to smoke, nor does it require employers to provide a smoking area for employees. It is, however, illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee’s lawful use of a lawful product (such as tobacco) during non-working hours.

It is the employer’s right to choose whether or not to allow smoking breaks or zones for its employees.

North Carolina Law Regarding Breaks for Shifts of 24 Hours or More

Some jobs are round-the-clock. Doctors, for instance, may have extended shifts. Note that sleeping is not considered a break. If the employee must be on duty for less than 24 hours, they are working even if they’re sleeping during some of those hours when not busy.

If the employee’s duty is for more than 24 hours, a period of no more than eight hours may be subtracted from work hours for sleep ONLY if:

  • Sleeping quarters are provided
  • The employee can get at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep

Are Nursing Mothers Entitled to Breaks?

Most likely, yes. The Affordable Care Act amended section 7 of the FLSA to include breaks for nursing mothers. Effective March 23, 2010, for up to one year after the child’s birth, the law requires most employers to give nursing mothers:

  • Reasonable break time to express breast milk, AND
  • A functional location other than a bathroom, shielded from view and protected from intrusion, that may be used to express breast milk.

Eligible employees include those who work for a covered employer or are covered on an individual basis, and any employees covered by section 7 of the FLSA (generally those entitled to overtime pay).

Employees who are not included in those groups may also be covered if they are engaged in interstate commerce. That can include making phone calls or sending letters to other states, traveling, or processing credit card transactions.

Note that employers are not required to provide paid break time, though if the employer already does, an employee can choose to use her breaks for expressing breast milk. Also, employers of fewer than 50 employees may be exempt from the break time and space requirements if such would cause “undue hardship.”

What if My NC Employer Does Not Provide Breaks?

A no-breaks policy is perfectly legal in most cases as long as that employer is following the rules. Again, labor law in North Carolina for breaks doesn’t mandate them. However, an employer that does provide breaks must adhere to federal law regarding those breaks in the absence of a North Carolina law.

If you have an employee handbook, it should outline the employer’s policy on breaks. These are policies you should follow, but so should your employer!

How Much Compensation Could I Receive if Break Laws Are Violated?

Depending on the particular facts and circumstances of your case, you could seek compensation in the form of:

  • Lost wages
  • Unpaid or denied benefits
  • Pain and suffering

If your employer were to terminate you for taking breaks even though it was in accordance with company policy, you might be the victim of wrongful termination. You should seek the help of an employment law attorney right away.

Should I Hire an Employment Law Attorney?

That’s the big question, isn’t it? Just because the company is making the policy surrounding breaks doesn’t give it the right to violate that policy. I’d suggest clarifying the policy with your supervisor first. If you’ve been docked pay for a break that company policy states should be paid, bring that to their attention and request a correction. Document all of this.

An attorney shouldn’t be used as a threat, either. That approach creates animosity where none need be. If your employer corrects your pay for the break, it’s all good. Mistakes happen. If it happens repeatedly, then that may be the sign of a problem. If your employer’s treatment of you deteriorates after you report such issues, it could also be a reason to hire an employment law attorney.

The bottom line? Once may be an accident. Two is a trend. Three may be a problem. Everyone makes mistakes, and habits are hard to break. Be patient, but don’t let someone take money out of your pocket unfairly. If you continue to have a problem, it might be time to contact us.

Unemployment Availability Broadened Due to COVID-19: Governor Issues Executive Order

Roy Cooper issues executive order to broaden unemployment availability

Thanks to an Executive Order signed by Governor Cooper, some eligibility requirements for Unemployment Benefits in NC have been waived for those filing for unemployment due to circumstances related to COVID-19, such as temporary layoffs, significant reduction in hours, business slowdowns and closings. Here is what you need to know:

  • You must apply for benefits either online at https://des.nc.gov/apply-unemployment or via phone at 888-737-0259.
  • If circumstances related to COVID-19 are your reason for applying, you must indicate that on the application.
  • Even if you are still working, but you have had your hours cut due to the effects of the COVID-19 restrictions, you may be eligible for Unemployment Benefits.
  • The standard one week waiting period for benefits is waived for those receiving benefits due to the effects of COVID-19 restrictions. There is still a 10-day period after the application during which your last employer is able to respond to your application.
  • The standard requirement to search for work is waived for those getting benefits as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. You will still have to do weekly certifications, but you are not required to look for work at this time.
  • The requirement that your unemployment or reduced hours is due to no fault of your own remains in place.
  • All standard eligibility requirements remain in place for those filing for unemployment for reasons other than circumstances related to COVID-19.
  • If you are receiving workers’ compensation checks and can’t return to work due to the impacts of COVID-19 on your workplace, learn if you can collect unemployment while on workers’ comp.

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We are still open, and are fighting for our clients as hard as ever. In addition, we are working to help disseminate useful information regarding the legal impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and containment measures.