E-Verify: In 2011, North Carolina adopted its own mandatory E-Verify law requiring public and private employers with 25 or more employees to use the federal E-Verify system to confirm a workers’ legal status. The law’s effective dates are staggered. For the state’s biggest employers (i.e., those with 500 or more employees in North Carolina), the law becomes effective on Oct. 1, 2012, with smaller employers to follow. Failure to comply could subject an employer to a $10,000 fine and a $1,000 civil penalty for a second violation or $2,000 civil penalty for subsequent violations for each required verification the employer failed to make. For more information, see N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 64-25 – 64-38.

Disability Discrimination: In 2011, North Carolina amended its “Persons with Disabilities Protection Act” to conform with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (“ADAAA”). Changes include relaxing standards concerning whether an individual is disabled and adding a new anti-retaliation provision. For more information, see N.C. Sess. Laws 2011-94, S.B. No. 384, or N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 168A-1 – 168A-12.

Unemployment Benefits: Effective Nov. 1, 2012, a new definition of employee misconduct will govern unemployment benefit decisions, potentially making it easier for employers to succeed in unemployment hearings The revised North Carolina law redefines “misconduct connected with the work” and includes examples of “prima facie evidence of misconduct.” Those examples include three written reprimands in the 12months preceding the employee’s termination, violating an employer’s absenteeism policy, violating the employer’s written alcohol or drug policy, and any inappropriate comments or behavior which creates a hostile work environment. For more information, see N.C. Sess. Laws 2012-134, S.B. No. 828.

Workers’ Compensation: In 2011, North Carolina revised its workers compensation laws in an effort to make them more favorable to employers. The changes include the following: redefining “suitable employment” to make definition clearer; adopting a complete defense for employers if an employee makes a willful misrepresentation about his/her physical condition at time of hire; shifting the burden of proof to employees regarding requesting changes in medical treatment; allowing written and oral employer communication with medical providers so long as notice and opportunity to participate in oral communications is provided to employees; and placing a cap on 500 weeks of compensation for temporary total disability unless the injuries meet the criteria for being permanent and total. See N.C. Sess. Laws 2011-287, H.B. No. 709.

Unclaimed Wages: Wages are now considered abandoned one-year after the date the compensation becomes payable, as opposed to two years. Before Nov. 1 of each year, employers must file a verified report with the state treasurer for unclaimed wages totaling more than $250 for the 12-month period ending on July 1. For more information, see N.C. Sess. Laws 2011-230 or N.C. Gen. Stat. § 116B-60.