Wage and Hour Disputes North Carolina
North Carolina provides strict guidelines for the payment of wages, salaries, tips, bonuses, commissions, and other compensation. The law says that your employer must pay you all that you were promised and all that you earned in regular payments.
Here are a few situations that commonly result in underpayment for hours worked:
- Paying “straight time” rates for overtime hours
- Misclassification of salaried and hourly employees
- Misclassification of employees as independent contractors
- Rest and meal breaks
- Discrepancies between hours worked and hours scheduled
- Docking pay for reasons not established by written company policy
- Employers promising “comp time” in lieu of overtime payment, meaning that the employer applies the employee’s overtime hours worked as a credit against hours needed for a subsequent pay period
Independent Contractor vs. Employee
If you work for a company as an independent contractor, you should be aware of the restrictions that apply to employers when hiring independent contractors. If your role with the company does not meet the conditions necessary for you to be legitimately classified as a contractor, you may be entitled to overtime pay, benefits, and tax contributions by your employer. If you discover that you should rightfully be classified as an employee, your employer may not only owe you overtime and benefits going forward—but also retroactively.
You might be misclassified as an independent contractor if:
- The company requires you to work your hours at their physical office
- The company does not allow you to use your own equipment
- You are required to punch a time clock or turn in a time sheet
- You are told what time you must report to work
- You are required to secure permission before changing your schedule
Exempt vs. Non-Exempt
Most jobs are governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Under the FLSA, employees are generally classified as either “exempt” or “non-exempt”.
If you are classified as an exempt salaried employee, your employer can require you to work more than 40 hours in a week and does not have to pay you overtime when you work more than 40 hours in a week. If you are classified as non-exempt, your employer must pay you at the overtime rate of 1.5 times your hourly wage for each hour worked over 40 hours in a week.
There are five typical categories of exempt job duties, called “executive,” “professional,” “administrative”, “computer professional” and “commissional sales.” Misclassification usually happens when an employer classifies someone whose job tasks do not squarely fall within one of those categories as “exempt” in order to avoid overtime requirements. In addition, all employees who earn less than $23,600 per year are automatically non-exempt. If you work for a salary but exercise little independent judgment and you work more than 40 hours per week regularly, you may be entitled to re-classification and retroactive overtime pay.
Meal and Rest Breaks
Employers are not required to grant meal or rest breaks to employees. However, if an employer does offer breaks, the employer must compensate employees for breaks lasting fewer than 30 minutes. Bona fide meal breaks lasting 30 minutes or longer are not compensable.
Vacation and Paid Time Off
In North Carolina, employers are not required to offer vacation time or other paid time off. However, if they do offer such paid time off in any form, they must compensate employees according to their promise. If your employer offers paid time off but does not compensate you according to its terms, you may have a wage and hour claim and may be entitled to compensation.
Unpaid Hours from Past Employment
If you determine after the fact that a past employer owes you additional payment for hours worked, you may be able to collect payment retroactively.
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