The first question in evaluating an employment claim in North Carolina is, “Do the facts take the employee outside of the at-will employment rule?” First, is there a written employment contract that states a specific period of employment? If the answer is “yes”, then if the terms of the contract were violated, then you may be able to seek contract damages or enforcement of the contract in court. If the answer is “no”, then you do not have a viable contract claim and must look to some other basis to support a legal claim.
The second question is, “Did the adverse employment action (firing, demotion, other) violate a law or the public policy of North Carolina?” To answer this question, you have to look at the specific facts surrounding the adverse employment action and ask “Why was this action taken against me?” Unless the action was taken for a specific reason that is unlawful under state or federal law (or at least against the express public policy of North Carolina), your situation falls under the at-will employment rule and does not give you a legal basis to pursue a claim for damages.
The following are unlawful reasons for refusing to hire, firing, demoting or otherwise treating an employee less favorably because of the employee’s:
- national origin
- sickle cell or hemoglobin C trait status
- genetic information or test results
Or because the employee:
- made a claim or asserted a right to workers’ compensation benefits
- sought or received Family and Medical Leave
- made a report, claim or asserted a right under the NC Wage and Hour Act
- made a report, claim or asserted a right under the NC Occupational Safety and Health Act
- performed National Guard obligations
- took certain actions covered under the Mine Safety and Health Act or related to the control of potential drug paraphernalia products or pesticides