Compliance Watch:
What are my rights as a salaried employee in North Carolina?

April 11th 2024

Grasping a thorough understanding of your rights as a salaried employee holds more relevance than merely knowing your laws. It empowers you as a salaried employee, and it can also be used as a tool to protect yourself in the workplace. 

As you dedicate yourself to your daily job, your compensation offered by your employer plays a vital role in shaping your work position. However, it’s crucial to recognize that the specifics of these arrangements can vary significantly from one U.S. state to another.

This article aims to provide clarity on your employment rights, guiding you toward a more informed and empowered work life. The article will specifically focus on the distinct labor regulations in the state of North Carolina.

This Article Covers

Defining a Salaried Employee in North Carolina
Common Questions About Salaried Employee Rights in North Carolina
Understanding Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Status in North Carolina
Wage and Hour Regulations in North Carolina
Deductions, Benefits, and Protections in North Carolina
Taking Action Against Violations in North Carolina
Case Studies and Real-Life Scenarios of Salaried Employee Rights Violations in North Carolina

Defining a Salaried Employee in North Carolina

What is Salaried Employment in North Carolina?

In compliance with both the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and labor regulations governing North Carolina, salaried employees are employed individuals who are receiving a fixed salary at regular intervals, typically on a biweekly or monthly basis. Certain salaried workers may also qualify for sick leave pay, and many of them meet the criteria to receive benefits as stipulated by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Within the salaried employee classification, some individuals are considered exempt. This category encompasses specific salaried workers, particularly those in roles such as executives, administrators, professionals possessing specialized skills or expertise, computer professionals, outside sales representatives, and highly compensated employees. However, if you are a salaried employee who does not occupy one of these designated positions, you may be classified as non-exempt, which would make you eligible to receive overtime compensation.

What are the Key Differences Between Salaried and Hourly Employees in North Carolina?

Aspect Salaried Employees Hourly Employees
Minimum Wage Laws Paid a fixed amount regardless of hours worked. Subject to the minimum wage in North Carolina of $7.25/hour. 
Overtime Laws Eligibility for overtime varies. Workers are classified exempt under FLSA for certain positions. Eligible for overtime for work hours exceeding 40 hours in a work week. Entitled to 1.5 times the regular wage for any time worked over 40 hours/week
Paid Sick Leave & FMLA Salaried pay may include sick leave; specifics vary by employer. May earn paid sick leave and use it with unpaid FMLA leave.
Paid Vacation Salaried pay may include vacation; specifics vary by employer. May earn paid vacation based on hours worked and employer policies.
Maternity/Paternity Leave May have unpaid provisions. The duration and specifics of leave vary by agreement with the employer. No guaranteed paid leave. Leave terms depend on employer’s policies.
Job Security Salaried employees typically enjoy more job security. Less job security and stability as salaried employees.

These are some of the basic differences between salaried and hourly employees in North Carolina, but it’s crucial to note that specific employment conditions may vary based on individual circumstances and employer policies. If you’d like to know more about North Carolina Labor Laws, you can access our guides on your rights as an hourly employee in North Carolina and penalties for breaking North Carolina labor laws.

Common Questions About Salaried Employee Rights in North Carolina

What are the Basic Rights of Salaried Employees in North Carolina?

  1. Salaried employees in North Carolina who are non-exempt have the right to receive the state’s minimum wage. 
  2. In North Carolina, salaried employees are covered by federal laws including the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
  3. Non-exempt salaried employees are entitled to receive overtime compensation at a rate of 1.5 times their regular hourly rate for any hours worked beyond 40 hours in a single workweek.
  4. Eligible employees have the privilege of taking unpaid leave for specific medical and family-related reasons under the provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
  5. The Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (REDA), overseen by the Department of Labor, safeguards employees from retaliation by employers when they exercise their legal rights under various laws and circumstances.
  6. All employees in North Carolina are protected from workplace discrimination based on various characteristics, including disability, national origin, ancestry, race, color, religion, gender, and military veteran status.

Is Overtime Pay Applicable to Salaried Employees in North Carolina?

Some salaried employees may be exempt from overtime, but this is not the case for all salaried employees. The state follows federal guidelines to determine exemption status, which are:

  1. Professionals: These individuals have acquired advanced knowledge and expertise through years of experience, which they apply to manage departments within their organization.
  2. Executives: They possess advanced knowledge and expertise and have the authority to make hiring and firing decisions.
  3. Computer Employees: This category includes roles such as software engineers, computer programmers, or analysts.
  4. Administrative Employees: Individuals in roles related to accounting, quality control, human resources, personnel management, or labor relations are considered here.

Can Employers Deduct Wages from Salaried Employees in North Carolina?

Employers in North Carolina are prohibited from deducting wages from an employee’s wages other than for items required and specifically permitted by federal law and state law.

Are Salaried Employees Eligible for Breaks and Leaves in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, employers must grant four hours of annual leave to employees who are parents, guardians, or acting in a parental role to school-aged children. This allows them to engage in school-related activities. However, certain conditions apply:

  1. The timing of leave must be agreed upon by both the employer and the employee.
  2. Employees need to submit a written leave request at least 48 hours in advance.
  3. Employers can ask for written verification from the child’s school.

Employers cannot take adverse actions against employees for taking this leave. Additionally, The Family and Leave Act grants eligible employees certain rights when working for covered employers. They can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a year for various reasons, with the possibility of extending to 26 weeks in specific cases. This leave can be taken intermittently if needed, and employees can use their accrued paid leave as well, following their employer’s policies.

Can Salaried Employees Request Flexible Work Arrangements in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, salaried employees have the opportunity to request flexible work arrangements through the Work Options Program. This program aims to diversify work schedules among state employees, foster increased productivity, elevate employee morale, and expand job opportunities for underrepresented groups such as women, individuals with disabilities, senior citizens, and others.

The program is managed by the State Work Options Coordinator from the Office of State Human Resources, who aids agencies in identifying suitable job-sharing positions and collaborates with the State Human Resources Director to offer various work schedule options. This may involve adjusting relevant policies, like leave or overtime, while ensuring the core intent of these policies is maintained. Additionally, the program also acknowledges the operational needs of companies and ensures that flexible work arrangements do not disrupt the usual public service hours of state offices.

Understanding Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Status in North Carolina

What is the Definition and Implications of Exempt Status in North Carolina?

An exempt employee in North Carolina is someone who is not entitled to overtime pay for working more than 40 hours a week. This applies to those earning at least $684 weekly ($35,568 annually) in specific roles like executive, administrative, professional, computer-related, or outside sales positions, as defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Exempt employees do not receive overtime, even if they work beyond 40 hours. Understanding the FLSA and North Carolina labor laws is crucial for compliance, as misclassification can result in costly wage disputes and legal actions. When classifying employees, employers should carefully assess their job descriptions to ensure they meet the legal criteria for exempt status.

What are the Differences Between Exempt and Non-Exempt Salaried Employees in North Carolina?

Aspect Exempt Employees Non-exempt Employees
Overtime Generally not eligible for overtime pay. Eligible for overtime pay for working over 40 hours per week. Entitled rate of one-and-a-half times the standard hourly wage.
Pay Structure Paid on a salary basis. Paid hourly.
Monitoring Hours Not expected to track hours worked. Expected to track and report hours worked
Employee Type Employees who typically hold managerial or professional roles. Job roles vary but may include blue-collar workers, clerical staff, or retail employees.
Compensation Exempt employees typically earn more due to skill and discretion expected. These workers receive an hourly rate with flexibility in scheduling.
Stability Stable paycheck and benefit eligibility. Varied hours, potential for instability.
Paid Time Off May qualify for paid vacation or sick time. Typically, they are not eligible for paid time off.

How to Determine if You're Exempt or Non-Exempt in North Carolina?

To determine if you’re exempt of non-exempt in North Carolina, you can apply three fundamental criteria to classify your exemption status, as established by the FLSA:

  1. Salary Level Test: If your annual salary exceeds $35,568 ($684 per week), you might be eligible for exempt classification.
  2. Salary Basis Test: If you receive a guaranteed minimum compensation, irrespective of the actual hours worked, you might qualify for exempt status.
  3. Duties Test: In addition to meeting the requirements of the first two tests, you must also perform job duties that fall under exempt categories. These duties may include executive responsibilities, which involve supervising two or more employees as a regular part of your job; professional duties, which include engaging in intellectual activities requiring specialized education and the exercise of discretion and judgment; and administrative duties, which involve carrying out supportive tasks related to significant matters, demanding discretion and judgment.

Wage and Hour Regulations in North Carolina

What are the Minimum Wage Requirements for Salaried Employees in North Carolina?

North Carolina’s minimum wage stands at $7.25 per hour. Employers must adhere to the minimum wage. However, they may offer higher compensation for specific roles.

How is Overtime Compensated for Salaried Employees in North Carolina?

If a salaried employee works more than 40 hours during a single workweek, they qualify to receive overtime pay at a rate that is one and a half times their usual hourly wage.

Deductions, Benefits, and Protections in North Carolina

What are the Permissible Deductions from Salaried Employee Pay in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, deductions from an employee’s wages are generally prohibited, except under the following circumstances:

  1. Government Mandates: Deductions required by government laws or regulations, such as state and federal taxes, are permissible.
  2. Employee Consent: Deductions can only be made with the express written consent of the employee, provided in a separate statement. However, even with the employee’s consent, the employer must ensure that the employee continues to receive at least the minimum wage.
  3. Offsets: Deductions may be implemented to offset the value of items received by the employee from the employer, even if such deductions temporarily lower the employee’s wage below the minimum wage threshold.

What are the Provided Employee Benefits and Protections Under North Carolina State Law?

In North Carolina, there are several important provisions and benefits in place to safeguard and support employees:

  1. Leave Entitlements: Employees have rights to various types of leave, including domestic violence leave, jury duty leave, witness leave, and military leave.
  2. Minimum Wage and Overtime Pay: The Fair Labor Standards Act mandates that all hours worked must be compensated at a minimum wage rate, and extra hours should be compensated at one and a half times the regular rate as overtime pay.
  3. Equal Pay and Retaliation Protection: Employees are assured of equal pay and protection against retaliation when reporting instances of discrimination or violations of labor laws.
  4. Non-Discrimination and Anti-Retaliation: Employers are prohibited from discriminating against or seeking retaliation against workers in protected categories. They are also required to ensure equal pay and safeguard whistleblowers.
  5. Workplace Safety: North Carolina law emphasizes workplace safety standards and regulations to protect the well-being of employees. Employers are required to provide a safe and healthy working environment, including proper training, equipment, and compliance with safety regulations to prevent accidents and injuries.
  6. Earned Sick Leave: Eligible employees are entitled to earned sick leave benefits under the Earned Sick Leave Law.

Taking Action Against Violations in North Carolina

How to Report Violations to Authorities or Labor Departments in North Carolina?

Issues regarding minimum wage, concerns about receiving proper overtime compensation, matters concerning wages that encompass overtime pay, or disputes related to wages linked to tips should be reported to the United States Department of Labor.

If you find yourself facing a wage-related issue that goes against the provisions of the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act, including concerns like unpaid regular wages, your final paycheck, vacation pay discrepancies, unauthorized deductions, pay cuts, or the absence of paycheck stubs, you have the option to initiate a formal complaint process. This can be done by submitting a complaint to the Wage and Hour Bureau within the North Carolina Department of Labor.

Case Studies and Real-Life Scenarios of Salaried Employee Rights Violations in North Carolina

Employee Discrimination: North Carolina Company Pays $50k for Violating Religious Accomodation Laws

In this case, Aurora Renovations and Developments, LLC, operating as Aurora Pro Services, a residential home service and repair company based in North Carolina, found itself entangled in a lawsuit brought forth by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In the EEOC vs. Aurora Pro Services, the lawsuit alleged that the company had mandated daily prayer meetings for its employees, which included Bible readings, Christian devotionals, and the solicitation of prayer requests. These meetings were led by the company owner, who reportedly took attendance and reprimanded those employees who chose not to attend. The case further detailed instances where two employees, one identifying as an atheist and the other citing religious misalignment, sought accommodation to excuse themselves from the prayer component of these meetings. Their requests were denied, resulting in pay cuts and subsequent terminations.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees based on their religious beliefs. The EEOC argued that the company’s refusal to provide religious accommodations to these employees violated Title VII, leading to a religious discrimination and retaliation lawsuit on behalf of the affected workers. In a settlement agreement, the company agreed to pay $50,000 to resolve the suit and committed to a three-year consent decree. This decree mandates the company to refrain from discriminatory and retaliatory actions in violation of Title VII, implement new anti-discrimination, non-retaliation, and religious accommodation policies, and conduct training for all managers and employees, including the owner.

Lessons Learned from the Case:

  1. Respect for Religious Diversity: This case highlights the importance of respecting religious diversity in the workplace. Employers should be mindful of employees’ varying religious beliefs and provide reasonable accommodations to ensure their religious rights are upheld, as mandated by Title VII.
  2. Anti-Discrimination Policies: It underscores the need for companies to have comprehensive anti-discrimination policies in place to prevent religious discrimination and retaliation. Such policies should be clear and well-communicated to all employees.
  3. Employee Training: The case emphasizes the significance of regular training for both management and employees on matters related to religious accommodations and workplace discrimination. Proper education can help prevent situations like the one presented in this case and promote a more inclusive work environment.

Violation of Wage Laws: North Carolina Company Pays $120,567 in Back Wages for Overtime Violations

Butler Trailer Manufacturing Co., a manufacturing company headquartered in Randleman, North Carolina, recently settled a case following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD). In the DOL WHD vs. Butler Trailer Manufacturing Co. case, the company agreed to pay a total of $120,567, which includes back wages and liquidated damages, to rectify violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The violations centered around the company’s failure to provide overtime compensation to 40 employees when they worked beyond 40 hours in a workweek. Instead, the employees were paid at straight time rates for all their hours worked.

According to Wage and Hour District Director Richard Blaylock in Raleigh, North Carolina, this case serves as a reminder that businesses must fulfill their legal obligation to remunerate employees for the hours they have worked, which includes paying overtime when they exceed the 40-hour workweek limit. Employers are encouraged to seek guidance and utilize available resources to ensure compliance with labor laws, as violations like these can lead to significant financial consequences.

Lessons Learned from the Case:

  1. Compliance is Key: This case underscores the importance of businesses adhering to labor laws and ensuring that they properly compensate their employees. Ignoring legal obligations can result in costly consequences, both in terms of financial penalties and damage to a company’s reputation.
  2. Regularly Review Policies: Employers should regularly review their pay and overtime policies to ensure they align with labor regulations. It’s crucial to stay informed about any changes in employment laws and proactively update policies to remain in compliance.
  3. Open Communication: Maintaining open lines of communication with employees and encouraging them to report any wage and hour concerns can help businesses identify and rectify potential violations early, mitigating the risk of costly legal actions and penalties.

Final Thoughts

As a salaried worker in North Carolina, possessing a grasp of your legal entitlements and safeguards is imperative. This knowledge not only enables you to shield yourself against potential violations but also empowers you to advocate for your well-being.

Keeping up-to-date with changes in labor laws is essential for ensuring a positive workplace experience. Given the complex nature of employment regulations, seeking professional advice by consulting an employment attorney, contacting The U.S. Department of Labor, or consulting the Office of the Labor Commissioner can offer invaluable information and direction.

Important Cautionary Note

This content is provided for informational purposes only. While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information presented, we cannot guarantee that it is free of errors or omissions. Users are advised to independently verify any critical information and should not solely rely on the content provided.