Discipline and termination

State procedures

Are there state-specific laws on the procedures employers must follow with regard to discipline and grievance procedures?

No state laws or regulations governing the procedures that private employers must follow with regard to discipline and grievance exist. Nonetheless, to avoid discrimination, retaliation, and similar claims, several steps are prudent. Any situation with an employee that could result in discipline should be thoroughly investigated. This includes gathering all relevant evidence, interviewing the witnesses, and obtaining written statements from witnesses. The employer should prepare a thorough and comprehensive list of questions for the employee who is the subject of the investigation. That employee should always be given a chance to tell their story and otherwise answer the accusations and questions. Employees should also be allowed to prepare a statement of their position. It is also advisable for employers to record the conversation (North Carolina is a one-party consent state not requiring the consent of the recorded party). The employer should then review all the evidence to ascertain what version of events or set of allegations is corroborated. Employers should be cautious when preparing reports or findings, as they need to be carefully and exactly worded and should avoid making legal conclusions. If there is corroborated evidence of a violation of the employer’s rules, the disciplinary action form should be crafted precisely. If there is more than one infraction (as there often is), the employer should list all the violations on the disciplinary action form. Lastly, any discipline should be administered professionally; the affected employee should not be degraded. Written discipline should be made in a constructive nature for the benefit of the employee. It should also be made clear to the employee that the employer had no choice but to take this action if it is to apply its rules consistently. If the employer has an internal appeal process or open-door policy, the employee should be made aware of that right.

At-will or notice

At-will status and/or notice period?

North Carolina is an at-will employment state. No notice of termination is required absent a contractual obligation.

What restrictions apply to the above?

North Carolina recognizes that at-will employees may bring a common law claim for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. The Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act limits an employer’s right to terminate an employee for conduct protected by the statute.

Final paychecks

Are there state-specific rules on when final paychecks are due after termination?

Employees whose employment is discontinued for any reason must be paid all wages due on or before the next regular payday either through the regular pay channels or by mail if requested by the employee. Wages based on bonuses, commissions, or other forms of calculation must be paid on the first regular payday after the amount becomes calculable when a separation occurs. Earned vacation pay, bonuses, and commissions may not be forfeited unless the employer has a policy that results in forfeiture and the employee has been notified of the employer's policy (in accordance with N.C. Gen. Stat. § 95-25.13). Employees not so notified are not subject to such loss or forfeiture.

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