Wrongful Termination Lawyers North Carolina
While North Carolina is an “at will employment” state, meaning that generally, either the employer or employee may terminate the employment relationship at any time for any or no reason, employers must still not terminate employees for reasons that are specifically disallowed either by law or in an employment contract if one exists. If you believe you have been terminated in violation of the law or the terms of your employment contract, you may be eligible to receive compensation—or you might be able to get your job back.
Unlawful Termination and Retaliation
North Carolina law specifically prohibits certain practices when it comes to terminating employees, such as:
- Firing based on race, religion, color, national original, sex, or disability
- Retaliatory terminations (firing someone for reporting an illegal incident, for complaining about illegal conduct, for filing a claim or complaint against the employer, for asserting one’s rights, or for complying with the law)
The law grants you protection if your employer fired you for unlawful reasons. However, not every case is black and white. There are “gray areas” where firing an employee may or may not be legal, depending on whether or not you and your employer executed an employment contract when you were hired. Such a contract could provide for more expansive protections than state or federal law provides.
Examples of “gray areas” include:
- Failure to issue verbal and written warnings before termination
- Showing nepotism or favoritism during a layoff
- Not giving an employee a fair chance to improve or correct behaviors
- Dismissal based on poor performance—with no clearly documented standard of performance
The legality of firing based on these types of reasons also depend on your employer’s written policies and the employee handbook that should have been provided to you when you were hired.
“At Will” Employment
North Carolina has adopted a statewide policy of “at will” employment, meaning that an employer can discharge an employee without needing a specific reason—unless you have an employment contract in place or unless some other law bars the termination. This does not necessarily mean that you have no recourse if you are fired from a job. Our firm can help you determine if your employer acted within its rights when it terminated your employment and what recourse you may have.
Employment Contract Review
The terms that your employer offers you at the beginning of your employment relationship may affect your options later. For this reason, it is important to understand the implications of the contracts and documents that you sign upon hiring. Before you start your new job, you can have our firm review your offer letter, contract, employee handbook, policy manual, non-compete agreement, and any other agreements that your new employer requires you to sign. If you are asked to sign a restrictive covenant such as a non-compete agreement, we can help you understand the implications and how it will affect you after you leave the company. We will help you negotiate favorable terms of employment to protect yourself down the road.
Wrongful termination is an unfortunate reality, but there are ways to prevent it from happening and to remedy it if it does happen.
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