Employment Litigation

Wage and Hour Cases

Under state law, the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act (NCWHA) requires that employers in North Carolina pay promised wages to employees when due, with no unauthorized deductions. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the federal law that requires minimum wages and premium pay for overtime. Both laws apply to employees, but not independent contractors. We have written on our blog about the important difference between the two.

You can read more about the NCWHA and important recent court decisions . Legal issues arise when employers fail to pay employees for all hours worked, including wait time. An employee also may have a claim for unpaid wages when their employer takes deductions without their signed written authorization for the specific amount of the deduction.

Under the FLSA, all employees must be paid one-and-a-half time their regular pay when they work overtime (more than 40 hours in any week), unless one of several exemptions apply. The law applies to both hourly and salaried empoloyees, and the FLSA was recently expanded to cover more salaried employees. (See here with an update here.)

It is common for wage disputes to involve more than one worker. Claims can be brought as “collective actions” under the FLSA and as class actions under the NCWHA.

Representative cases at Spengler & Agans under the NCWHA and FLSA:

  • represented auto mechanics against their employer who made unauthorized deductions from final paychecks, upon termination, to reimburse for up to $12,000 in “training” costs;
  • represented claims reviewers in a collective action against their insurance company employer in a claim for unpaid overtime based on misclassification of exempt status under the FLSA;
  • represented dance instructors who were paid on a per-class basis but did not receive any wage for time spent cleaning and performing other menial tasks;

Wrongful Termination

Spengler & Agans represents workers who have claims for wrongful termination for retaliation. Employment in North Carolina is on an at-will basis, meaning that either the employer or the employee can terminate the employment at any time — for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all. The exception is that an employer cannot terminate an employee for an illegal reason, including in retaliation against the employee for engaging in protected activity.

Employees are protected by various laws against unlawful retaliation, including under both state law and federal law. The N.C. Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act and the common law doctrine of wrongful discharge in violation of public policy prohibit employers for firing employees under certain circumstances, including for example if an employee complains about unpaid wawges, files a claim for workers’ compensation, or calls the police to report workplace violence.

Federal law protects employees from being terminated in retaliation for reporting fraud or financial crimes (Sarbanes-Oxley), for refusing to operate a commercial vehicle in violation of safety requirements (Surface Transportation Assistance Act), and for asking for reasonable workplace accommodations for a disability (Americans with Disabilities Act).

Our firm has experience litigating claims for wrongful termination under each of these laws.

Non-Compete, Non-Solicitations, and Trade Secrets

Employment disputes often arise over the obligations of employees after the termination of their employment. It is common for employment agreements to include non-compete and non-solicitation provisions that require the employee to not compete with the employer’s business or to solicit the employer’s customers or employees. An employee should not always assume that a non-compete agreement will be enforced by the courts because these types of “restrictive covenants” are disfavored by law.

North Carolina law and federal law both include statutes that govern trade secrets. The statutes are similar but different in some important ways. Our firm has experience litigating trade secrets cases, including a jury trial representing an employee against an employer who sued for an alleged breach of a confidentiality agreement.

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