Even Legal Off-Duty Marijuana Use Can Get You Fired

Marijuana legalization is a hot topic in the United States these days and has presented some interesting new questions in the workplace. Increasingly, states are legalizing or decriminalizing private use of marijuana while the federal government continues to prohibit its use and sale under the Controlled Substances Act. At the intersection of federalism and employment law is a novel question in search of an answer: Can an employer in a state that has legalized marijuana terminate an employee in that …
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Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress at Work

North Carolina recognizes torts for both negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress. However, North Carolina courts have instructed that North Carolina law does not permit an action for negligent infliction of emotional distress by an employee against an employer because the Workers’ Compensation Act preempts all claims for negligent injury by employees against employers. Intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”), however, is in a class of torts called intentional torts. This means that a plaintiff must prove that the …
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Fraud in the Inducement in the Employment Context

North Carolina does recognize a cause of action for employees who fall prey to an employer’s promise to employ without an intent to do so.  However, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that the employer did not intend to honor its promises regarding employment at the time they were made. One North Carolina case demonstrates why these kinds of claims are hard hills to climb.  In February 2007, Eli Research, Inc. engaged Lyn Hittle in employment discussions in which Eli offered Hittle an …
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President Obama to Sign Executive Order Curbing LGBT Employment Discrimination

Yesterday, President Obama pledged that he would sign an executive order that would prohibit federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Because federal contractors employ 22% of the American workforce, the impending executive order will serve as an important step in eliminating discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace. While the executive order will not protect all LGBT workers in the private labor market, it is a step in the right direction. Employment opportunities should …
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Emotional Distress Damages Allowed in Wrongful Discharge Suit

While North Carolina follows the employment at will doctrine, North Carolina courts recognize specific exceptions to that doctrine based upon a violation of public policy. If an employer terminates an employee for reasons that violate a specific expression of state public policy, the plaintiff may pursue a wrongful discharge claim to remedy the personal injury suffered. Very recently, the North Carolina Court of Appeals analyzed the kinds of damages that a jury may award in a successful wrongful discharge action. …
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A Fool’s Resignation on April 1

Yesterday, I posted an April Fools’ Day piece for employers.  Today, having been given some golden material by a friend of mine who ACTUALLY played this April Fool’s prank on his managers, I’m doing a belated April Fools’ Day lesson for employees.  (He didn’t consult me before doing this, obviously). The following is an example, for several reasons, of a prank NOT to play on April Fools’ Day (or the other 364 days of the year)… This e-mail went out …
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Off the Clock

I’ve heard employees say, “My employer tells me to clock out once I have reached 8 hours in the day, even if I haven’t finished my work.”  If you worked past when you clocked out, can you get paid for it?  If you actually worked more than 40 hours — even if your employer has a policy against working unauthorized overtime – do you still have a right to be paid for it? The answer to both questions is yes …
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