“Employment-at-Will” in Our State

Inside this issue
• Berry Column - page 2
• Labor One - page 2
• Workplace Worries - page 3
• Deadly Mistakes - page 3
• STAR Updates - page 4
August 2002
Vol. 10 • Number 8
“Employment-at-Will” in Our State
With few exceptions, North Carolina is an “employment-at-will” state
The N.C. Department of Labor receives
hundreds of calls each day. The calls
from concerned workers vary in terms of
topic. But, through the years, one of the
more common inquiries relates to the
issue of employment-at-will. Following
is a description, along with information
about key contacts.
North Carolina is generally an “employment-at-will” state. The only exceptions
would be for specific laws such as the
State Personnel Act, which has employment protection for career state employees
who do not serve at the pleasure of an
elected official.
The term “employment-at-will” simply
means that unless there is a specific law
to protect employees or there is an
employment contract providing otherwise, then an employer can treat its
employees as it sees fit, and the employer
can hire or discharge employees at the
will of the employer for any reason or no
reason at all. It is also up to each
employer to decide if its employees may
see their own personnel files or not.
The most common protected categories
are those that protect an employee’s civil
rights based on age, race, sex, religion,
national origin, color, disability or pregnancy (including the Americans with
Disability Act (ADA)). For questions or
information on these protected categories, you need to contact the federal
Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC) as follows:
Office locations: 1-800-669-4000
EEOC/ADA posters: 1-800-669-3362
ADA questions: 1-800-949-4ADA
Web site: www.eeoc.gov
There may also be protection under the
federal Family and Medical Leave Act
(FMLA) for having to be out because of
sickness, accident, pregnancy, the birth
or adoption of a child, or disability. For
information on FMLA, you need to contact the U.S. Department of Labor’s
Wage and Hour Division as follows
(Federal minimum wage and overtime,
Polygraph Test law, Family and Medical
Leave Act (FMLA)):
Charlotte District Office: (704) 344-6302
Raleigh District Office: (919) 790-2741
Questions, referrals: 1-866-4-USWAGE
Web site: www.dol.gov
Another protected category comes under
the Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (REDA), which is administered
Continued on page 2
Job Profiling Offers New Career Opportunities
The Apprenticeship and Training
Bureau of the N.C. Department of
Labor now offers ACT Inc.’s
WorkKeys Job Profiling.
Job profiling is a job analysis system
that helps businesses identify the skills
and skill levels employees need to perform specific jobs effectively. The system
N.C. Department of Labor
4 W. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC 27601-1092
also gives individuals a clear picture of
the skill levels they need to qualify for
and be successful in the jobs they want.
areas they need to strengthen as they
pursue their education and career
When used with the assessments,
instruction and reporting, job profiling
enables students and workers to make
good decisions about career opportunities.
Job profiling also helps them to identify
Department of Labor officials are
excited about using the job profiling
process to develop and register an
apprenticeship program for boiler/pressures vessel inspectors with the Boiler
Safety Bureau. The results of this job
profiling process will be used as a
training plan for boiler inspectors
throughout the country and 12 U.S. territories—as well as representatives of
the insurance industry.
U.S. Postage
Permit No. 154
Raleigh, NC
Other industries using the job profiling
process to develop or expand their
Continued on page 4
“Employment-at-Will” in NC
Continued from page 1
From Commissioner Berry
When nine Pennsylvania miners were
recently rescued from dark, underground recesses, the notion of mine
safety anywhere—arose.
North Carolina is not generally considered a traditional mining state.
However, the state employs more than
4,000 workers at some 770 quarries
and mines. So, to ensure worker safety,
the department does have a Mine and
Quarry Bureau. The bureau conducts
inspections, coordinates worker training
and generally helps operators comply
with safety regulations. Education, as
we all saw in Pennsylvania, is so very
During the Pennsylvania incident, we
all witnessed a happy ending to a dramatic story. And we all saw just how
important safety education and teamwork truly are.
Commissioner of Labor
Cherie K. Berry
by the N.C. Department of Labor’s
Employment Discrimination Bureau
(EDB). REDA protects against retaliation by an employer when an employee
engages in activities protected under the
Occupational Safety and Health Act, the
Mine Safety and Health Act, the North
Carolina Wage and Hour Act, and
Workers Compensation Act (and workrelated injuries), as well as for carrying
the sickle cell trait, use of genetic testing
information, participating in the North
Carolina National Guard, and participating
in the juvenile court system concerning
the employee’s child.
Labor Ledger is published monthly by the
N.C. Department of Labor for North Carolina
employers and employees.
Editor ........................................Greg Cook
Business Mgr .........................Nancy Baird
Layout and Design ..................Jeff Wilson
Comments and suggestions are welcome.
Annual subscriptions are available for $10.
Please direct inquiries to the N.C.
Department of Labor, Communications
Division, (919) 733-0363, or call
1-800-NC-LABOR. Visit our Web site at …
Workers’ compensation questions should
be directed to the N.C. Industrial
Commission at (919) 807-2501 (Raleigh)
or toll-free 1-800-688-8349. Web site:
NCDOL Strengthens Outreach to
North Carolina Companies
The N.C. Department of Labor will be
expanding its presence at the N.C.
State Fair in Raleigh in October.
DOL is bringing to the fair its mobile
training vehicle, which it calls Labor One.
The country’s first bilingual mobile
training unit is being displayed to add
emphasis to the department’s renewed
efforts to lower workplace injuries.
“Labor One will help workplace safety,
especially for small companies,” Labor
Commissioner Cherie K. Berry said.
“It’s a free service, and for small companies, it means that they can request
our free training classes without having
to worry about employees’ travel time
and expenses.”
4 W. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC 27601-1092
Questions or complaints concerning
REDA should be directed to the EDB at
(919) 807-2796 (Raleigh) or toll-free
(N.C. only) 1-800-NC-LABOR (1-800625-2267) for assistance. If you think
you have a REDA complaint, you need
to call the EDB immediately as there is a
time limit to file a REDA complaint. The
department’s call center is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Labor One training is available in
either English or Spanish. DOL added
safety training in Spanish because of
the extraordinary increase in the number
of Hispanic workers who have come to
North Carolina in the last 15 years.
The mobile training unit is an effort by
the labor commissioner and other DOL
officials to expand technical assistance
to employers and employees. Since
taking office in January 2001, Berry
has emphasized the need for increased
cooperation between DOL and the private sector as a way of improving
awareness about safety standards.
“I’m convinced that we can reduce
fatalities and injuries if employers and
employees alike are fully aware of the
risk of workplace hazards,” Berry said.
“We have to help people understand
what their responsibilities are.”
Labor One, the
country’s first bilingual mobile training
unit, will make its
official debut at the
2002 N.C. State
Fair in October.
Fairgoers will be
introduced to the
many convenient
benefits Labor One
offers, such as
providing training
to worksites across
North Carolina.
amount, and then calculate the exact net
amount when the next payroll is done.
In order for the N.C. Department of
Labor to assist an employee with a
wage problem, a complaint must be
filed with this office. To file a wage
claim, call us at (919) 807-2796
(Raleigh) or toll-free (N.C. only)
1-800-NC-LABOR (1-800-625-2267).
Q. If an employee is underpaid based
on a miscalculation by the employer,
when should the employer rectify the
A. If your employer underpays you or
other employees as a result of a miscalculation of wages or other bona fide
error, then your employer must pay any
such underpayment owed as soon as
possible upon the discovery of the error
along with accrued interest (currently 8
percent). Your employer cannot wait
until the next regular payday. Your
employer could pay you and the other
employees out of petty cash or with a
non-payroll check for the estimated net
WHAT HAPPENED: A truck driver
was crushed and killed between the
frame and dump box of a dump
truck. Apparently a safety “over
travel” cable attached between the
truck frame and the dump box malfunctioned by catching on a protruding
nut of an air brake cylinder. This
prevented the dump box from being
fully raised, halting its progress at a
point where about 20 inches of space
remained between it and the truck
frame. The employee, apparently
assuming that releasing the cable
would allow the dump box to continue
up ward, reached between the rear
dual wheels and over the frame, and
disengaged the cable with his right
hand. The dump box then dropped
Q. Is direct deposit a discretionary condition of employment by the employer?
A. Yes, it is entirely up to an employer
to decide the type of payment system to
use, such as paying by cash, check,
money order or direct deposit. It is also
up to the employer as to which employees
or group of employees are paid by
which system. Direct deposit is merely
another form of payment of wages;
therefore, an employer can make the
payment of wages by direct deposit as a
condition of employment for an individual employee, for a group of employees
or for all its employees. In other words,
an employer can say to an employee, “If
you want to work here, you will be paid
suddenly, crushing his
head. The employee
had not received training or instruction in
proper operating procedures and was not
made aware of all potential hazards
in his work.
FINDINGS: Following their inspection, inspectors issued one citation
for one alleged serious violation of
the construction standards. Had the
required training been provided to
the employee, this fatality might
have been prevented.
by direct deposit.” The employee will
then have to decide to either agree to be
paid by direct deposit by this employer
or go to work somewhere else.
It is also the enforcement position of the
N.C. Department of Labor that if the
payment of wages by direct deposit by
an employer is mandatory, then its
employees must not incur additional
costs as a result of participation, such as
bank fees, if those costs result in an
employee being paid less than the North
Carolina minimum wage of $5.15 an
hour (same as the federal minimum
wage). Conversely, we take the position
that if direct deposit is completely
optional and an employee elects to be
paid by direct deposit, then the costs to
this employee can bring the employee’s
pay below the minimum wage.
Labor-related information is
available by calling
or visit our Web site at
Employees must be instructed to
recognize and avoid unsafe conditions associated with their work (29
CFR 1926.21(b)(2)).
• The Bureau of Education, Training
and Technical Assistance publishes
Occupational Safety and Health
Standards for the Construction
Industry. Contact the bureau at (919)
807-2875. The book contains all
OSHA job safety and health rules
and regulations (29 CFR 1926 and
parts of 29 CFR 1910 pertaining to
• The Bureau of Consultative
Services offers free safety and/or
health consultations to small businesses and public sector employers.
Contact the bureau at (919) 8072899 for more information.
Information provided by the federal
Occupational Safety and Health
Building Star
Company Helps
Church Expand
Raleigh general contractor
and Building Star recipient, Beers Skanska Inc.,
Davidson & Jones Group,
has been instrumental in
the expansion project of
one of Raleigh’s oldest
The contractor’s Building
Star banner hangs proudly
on the fence surrounding
the expansion worksite of
Edenton Street United
Job Profiling
Continued from page 1
existing apprenticeship programs
include Hankison International,
Newport, INCO, Rocky Mount and
American Emergency Vehicles in
The service currently is being offered
by the Department of Labor on a complimentary basis for sponsors interested
in expanding or developing quality
training opportunities.
Methodist Church located in downtown Raleigh.
The local contractor is one of only
three N.C. companies to earn the
coveted Building
Star recognition.
The program is
sponsored by the
N.C. Department
of Labor.
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