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The North Carolina employment
law guide

The North Carolina labor laws every business owner should know

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Wages and breaks

North Carolina 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.

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Tipped min wage

The minimum wage for tipped employees in North Carolina is $2.13.

Employers may pay the tipped 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.

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North Carolina Overtime Pay

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.

The federal overtime rule laid out in the Fair Labor Standards Act stipulates that the minimum salary requirement for administrative, professional, and executive exemptions is $684 per week, or $35,568 per year.

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North Carolina Breaks

Employers aren’t required to provide rest breaks or meal breaks for 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.

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30 min per 5 hr
Minor Breaks

Employers are required to give minors 14 and 15 years of age a 30-minute break after five consecutive hours are worked.

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Final paychecks in North Carolina

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.

North Carolina child labor laws

Minors 14 and 15 years of age
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. They may only work 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. They may work a maximum of 18 hours per week when school is in session and 40 hours per week when school is not in session. They may only work 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
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.

Leave requirements

North Carolina Sick days

Employers are not obligated to provide sick days to employees under North Carolina law.

North Carolina Family and medical leave

Employers might be required to provide unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

North Carolina Bereavement leave

Employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid bereavement leave.

North Carolina Vacation time

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.

North Carolina 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.

North Carolina Jury Duty Leave

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.

North Carolina Voting time

Employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid voting leave.

North Carolina Witness Leave

Employers are not required to provide employees with leave to appear as a witness, but discharging an employee for taking leave to appear as a witness may constitute a wrongful discharge in violation of public policy.

North Carolina Domestic Violence or Sexual Assault Leave

Employers must provide leave to an employee who is a victim of domestic violence and requires time off from work to obtain or attempt to obtain relief. The employer may decide whether the leave is paid or unpaid.

Employers can require advance notice, except in emergencies, and can require documentation of an emergency afterward.

North Carolina Emergency Response Leave

Employers must allow their employees to take leave to volunteer as firefighters, rescue squad workers, or emergency medical service personnel during a state of emergency. Employees may but cannot be required to use available paid leave.

North Carolina School Volunteer Leave

Employers must provide their employees with up to four hours of leave per year to attend or be involved in their child’s school or daycare. Employees who are the parent, guardian, or person standing in loco parentis are eligible for the leave.

North Carolina Military Leave

Employees who were away on active duty and then honorably released must be restored to their previous position, or a like position, whenever reasonable, if they request reemployment within the prescribed time frames.

To qualify for reinstatement, employees must make a written request to return to work within five days of return if they were gone for 30 or fewer days, and within 14 days of return if they were gone more than 30 days. That time frame will be extended by up to two years if the employee is recovering from a service-related injury.

Hiring and firing

North Carolina Discrimination Laws

Federal laws prohibiting discrimination are in place on the basis of: Race, Color, Age, Sex, Sexual orientation, Gender, Gender identity, Religion, National origin, Pregnancy, Genetic information, including family medical history, Physical or mental disability, Child or spousal support withholding, Military or veteran status, Citizenship and/or immigration status.

In addition, North Carolina law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of: Use of lawful products off the premises during non-work hours; AIDS/HIV; Sickle cell or hemoglobin C trait; Wage garnishment by a public hospital.

Employers may not discharge or discriminate against an employee because they are a member of the military.

Click here to read our blog on what acceptable and unacceptable questions to ask during an interview.

North Carolina Termination Laws

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.

North Carolina Record-Keeping Laws

Regarding employment and payroll data, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and others, you must:

For at least 3 years: keep payroll records, certificates, agreements, notices, collective bargaining agreements, employment contracts, and sales and purchase records. Also keep completed copies of each employee’s I-9 for three years after they are hired. If the employee works longer than three years, hold on to the form for at least one year after the employee leaves. 

For at least 2 years: Keep basic employment and earning records like timecards, wage-rate tables, shipping and billing records, and records of additions to or deductions from wages. Also keep the records that show why you may pay different wages to employees of different sexes, such as wage rates, job evaluations, seniority and merit systems, and collective bargaining agreements.

For at least 1 year: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says employers should keep all employment records for at least one year from the employee’s date of termination. 

Other record-keeping laws that may apply to you: 

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, you need to keep records of job-related injuries and illnesses for five years. But some records, like those covering toxic substance exposure, have to be kept for 30 years.

You must keep files of benefit plans and seniority and merit systems while they are in effect and for at least a year after they end. You must also retain summary descriptions and annual reports of benefits plans for six years.

If your company is covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, you must also retain relevant records of leaves, notices, policies, and more for three years. 

Additional laws that may apply to you.

North Carolina Pay Practices

Employers may pay their employees daily, weekly, biweekly, semimonthly, or monthly on regular paydays. Commissions may be paid annually if specified in advance. Employers may choose the timing of paying their employees.

Employers must provide at least 24 hours’ notice of a change in wages, either by posting a notice in a prominent location (for changes that affect all employees) or otherwise informing employees in writing.

New employees must be given notice of the following: The day wages are paid; Their rate of pay; All policies and practices regarding promised wages.

North Carolina Background Check Laws

Employers who run background checks should ensure they’re following the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

North Carolina Credit and Investigative Check laws

North Carolina does not expressly allow or prohibit employers from obtaining credit checks on applicants or employees.

North Carolina Arrest and Conviction Check Laws

North Carolina does not expressly allow or prohibit employers from using criminal histories for employment purposes. Employers may not, however, ask applicants about expunged records, and applicants with expunged records may answer in the negative if asked about arrest or conviction records.

North Carolina Drug and Alcohol Testing LAws

There are no North Carolina laws prohibiting employers from drug testing applicants or employees. 

However, if an employer does test their applicants or employees, they must follow these requirements: Conduct testing under reasonable and sanitary conditions; Provide employees with a notice of their rights and responsibilities when they are tested; Provide employees with their test results within 30 days; Provide employees with notice of their retesting rights within 30 days of being tested; Allow employees to retest at an approved laboratory after testing positive; Confirm an applicant’s positive test with a second test unless the applicant signs a waiver; Confirm an employee’s positive test with a second test; Use gas chromatography with mass spectrometry or a similar scientific method to confirm a positive test; Keep a portion of every sample that tests positive for at least 90 days; Establish chain-of-custody procedures for samples; For tests required under federal law, report positive results to the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles within five business days.

North Carolina Whistleblower Protection Laws

Employers may not discharge or discriminate against an employee for exercising their rights under any of the following laws: Wage and Hour Act; Workers’ Compensation Act; Occupational Safety and Health Act; Mine Safety and Health Act.

North Carolina COBRA

COBRA is a federal law that allows many employees to continue their health insurance benefits after their employment ends. Because federal COBRA only applies to employers that have 20 or more employees, many states have adopted their own versions of the law, which are known as “mini-COBRAs.” North Carolina’s mini-COBRA allows employees to continue their coverage for up to 18 months. Each individual certification of coverage must contain a notice of the right to continue coverage. Employers may also inform an employee orally or in writing as part of the employment exit process.

North Carolina Employee Monitoring Laws

Employers may not listen to or record their employees’ wire communications unless at least one party to the communication consents.

Compliance Calendar

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This 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. If you need more compliance help, we recommend consulting with a qualified lawyer, checking with your local government agencies, or signing up for Homebase to get help from our certified HR Pros.