It’s important to stay up to date on all of the employment laws in your state so that you can maintain compliance in your business. We did some of the hard work for you and put some of the most important North Carolina statutes in one place so you can either learn them for the first time or give yourself a refresher. 

However, remember that our summary is not qualified legal advice, laws are always subject to change, and they can vary from municipality to municipality. 

It’s up to you to make sure you’re compliant with all laws and statutes in your area. Consult with a qualified lawyer and/or your local government agencies if you have questions or concerns. 

Here are a few North Carolina labor laws every small business owner should know.


First, here are a few helpful links and resources for you to bookmark and refer back to:


  • Sick Days: Employers are not obligated to provide paid or unpaid sick leave to employees under North Carolina law, but federal law might require them to provide unpaid sick leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.  
  • Medical Leave: No statute, but employers might be required to provide unpaid leave under the FMLA. 
  • Vacation Leave: North Carolina law does not require employers to provide paid or unpaid vacation leave
    • If an employer establishes a vacation policy, it must lay out the following:
      • How vacation is earned 
      • If vacation days carry over to the next year, and if so, how much
      • If vacation time is mandatory
      • If an employee can receive compensation instead of time off
      • How vacation pay may be forfeited if an employee is terminated
    • An employer must abide by whatever policy they have established. 
  • Jury Duty: Employers are not required to pay employees for time taken to respond to a jury summons, but employees cannot be penalized or terminated for doing so. 
  • Holiday Leave: Private employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid holiday leave, but if they choose to do so, they must adhere to their established employment contract. 
  • Voting Leave: Employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid voting leave. 
  • Bereavement Leave: Employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid bereavement leave. 

Final Paycheck

  • An employer must pay an employee their final paycheck after being separated from employment (no matter the conditions of the separation) by the next regular payday. 
  • If an employee requests the final paycheck be mailed, the employer must comply. 

Minimum Wage

  • The current minimum wage in North Carolina is $7.25.
  • The North Carolina Wage and Hour Act exempts many employees covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act, such as those who work in the commerce or production of goods for commerce, from their minimum wage, overtime, youth employment, and recordkeeping requirements. 
  • The North Carolina minimum wage is required to be the same amount as federal minimum wage if it is higher than what is set forth in the Wage and Hour Act

Tipped Wages

  • The minimum wage for tipped employees in North Carolina is $2.13. 
  • Employers may pay the lower minimum wage if: 
    • The employee typically makes more than $20 per month in tips. 
    • The employee is notified that they will be paid the lower minimum wage. 
    • The employee is allowed to keep all tips. 
    • The employer keeps an accurate and thorough record of all tips made each pay period. 
  • Employers are allowed to require tipped employees to participate in a tip pooling arrangement

Child Labor

  • Minors 14 and 15 years of age may work:
    • No more than 3 hours a day when school is in session and 8 hours a day when school is out.
    • Only between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. when school is in session and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. when school is not in session.
    • A maximum of 18 hours per week when school is in session and 40 hours per week when school is not in session. 
    • Only outside of school hours. 
  • Employers are required to give minors 14 and 15 years of age a 30-minute break after five consecutive hours are worked. 
  • Minors 14 and 15 years of age may only work in retail, food service, service stations, and other business offices. 
  • Minors 16 and 17 years of age may not work between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. when a school day follows, unless they have written permission from their parents and school principal. 
  • Minors 16 and 17 years of age may not work in these hazardous occupations

Meal and Rest Breaks, Overtime

  • Employers must pay overtime to non-exempt employees at the rate of 1 ½ times the normal rate for any hours worked past 40 in a workweek. 
  • Aside from the aforementioned mandatory break for employees 14 and 15 years of age, employers aren’t required to provide rest breaks or meal breaks for other employees. 
    • If they choose to provide meal periods, they don’t have to be paid if the employee is not working during the period. 
    • Any additional breaks employers choose to provide must be paid. 

Employment Discrimination

  • The federal law prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age (40-70), citizenship status, and genetic information is observed in North Carolina. 
  • North Carolina also extended the protections to prohibit the discrimination of individuals on the basis of AIDS/HIV status, sickle cell or hemoglobin C trait status, military status, or lawful use of a lawful product while outside of work. 


North Carolina is an employment-at-will state, which means that without a written employee contract, employees can be terminated for any reason at any time, provided that the reason is not discriminatory and that the employer is not retaliating against the employee for a rightful action. 

Shift Scheduling

There are no laws that dictate how an employer can schedule an employee or how they may adjust the hours that are already scheduled.

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