Employee Rights

What is illegal discrimination?

Under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, it is illegal for an employer with at least 15 employees to fire, refuse to hire, or make any employment decision because of your race, color, religion, sex (gender) or national origin. This includes a wide variety of employment decisions, such as compensation, shift assignments, employment benefits, privileges, promotions, and task assignments, as well as more traditional hiring and firing decisions. There are also laws protecting against age discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, and disability discrimination.

What counts as racial or sexual harassment?

Racial or sexual harassment can be physical, or verbal, including racial slurs, offensive remarks, comments about a person’s color, race, clothing, or physical appearance, or racially offensive symbols (such as nooses). While an off-hand comment is not enough to qualify as harassment, when conduct is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile work environment, or affects your employer’s employment decisions, you may have a claim for harassment under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act.

How do I file a claim for workplace discrimination or harassment?

In most cases, you must document your workplace discrimination complaint using your employer’s internal processes before filing a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the North Carolina Department of Labor, or federal and state court. If you are part of a union, this may involve filing a grievance with your union representative. Often, you must receive a “right to sue” letter from the EEOC before you can file your employment discrimination lawsuit.

Who can file a Title VII civil rights complaint?

Title VII protections are available to full-time, part-time, and temporary employees of public agencies and private companies with at least 15 employees. It also applies to job applicants at those agencies or companies.

I’m an independent contractor. Do I have rights as an employee?

Title VII only applies to employees, not independent contractors. However, your title or the fact that you receive a 1099 aren’t always the controlling factors. Speak to an employment discrimination attorney to determine if you count as an employee.

I was fired because of discrimination. Can I get my job back?

Reinstatement is one form of relief available to employees who are wrongfully terminated because of discrimination. Your employer may be required to place you in your old job, or a substantially similar position if you win your employment discrimination case.

Should I be paid overtime if I am paid a salary?

If you are paid a salary, you may still be entitled to overtime pay. If you are a “white-collar” employee your eligibility for overtime will depend on how much you are paid and whether you are primarily an executive, administrative, or professional employee under the U.S. Department of Labor’s regulations.

Do I have to sign a severance agreement?

If you are separating from a company, they may ask you to sign a severance agreement to receive severance pay or continue benefits after you are terminated. You have the right to negotiate the terms of your severance. Talk to an employment lawyer before you sign an agreement that could affect your rights.

Are non-compete agreements legal or enforceable in North Carolina?

Some non-compete agreements and restrictive covenants are enforceable in North Carolina, but it depends on the exact terms of the agreement. If there is litigation about a non-compete agreement in court, some of the factors at play are how necessary the restriction is for the employer, the time limit of the restrictions, the geographic scope, and how the agreement was reached.

Do I need an attorney?

You have the right to consult with an employment lawyer before signing any employment contract or severance agreement. You also have the right to be represented by an attorney of your choice when employment discrimination, harassment, or wage and hour disputes arise. Any time you are considering filing a complaint, you should talk to an experienced employment lawyer first. Your attorney will help you negotiate with your employer, file any necessary complaints, and protect your rights before the EEOC and in state or federal court. Please contact an attorney at Patterson Harkavy to discuss your claim.

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