If you file a lawsuit against your employer for discrimination, breach of contract, or some other form of unfair treatment, you will need an employment lawyer to represent you. Filing a lawsuit involves several steps and a lot of preparation, so in order not to miss the statute of limitations, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible after the unfair treatment begins. The good news is that your employment lawyer can help you resolve many kinds of disputes with your employer without going to court. If your employer has wrongfully fired you from your job, denied you a promotion, or not paid you the money that they promised you in your employment contract, contact the Charlotte employment discrimination lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP.
Does Your Employment Contract Protect Your Best Interests?
Employment lawyers are not just for people who have been fired from their jobs or who are facing a hostile work environment because of racist or sexist behavior by coworkers. The best time to contact an employment lawyer is before you sign an employment contract. You can prevent a lot of costly disputes with your lawyer if you review your contract in detail with an employment lawyer. These are some important provisions in employment contracts that can put you at an advantage or disadvantage, depending on how they are worded:
- Requirements for travel and for being on call outside of ordinary business hours
- Severance pay – If the employer must terminate your employment for reasons unrelated to your own wrongdoing (such as corporate downsizing due to financial hardships), what compensation will the employer give you? The best severance packages include an amount of money equal to several months’ salary, plus a continuation of health insurance benefits.
- Provisions about intellectual property – If your job involves writing for publication, will the copyright to your writing belong to you or to the company? The same question applies to inventions for which you seek a patent.
- Force majeure clauses – These clauses, also known as “acts of God” clauses, protect both parties against lawsuits if one party cannot fulfill its contractual obligations because of a war, natural disaster, or similarly disruptive event.
- Noncompete clauses – Some employers try to restrict employees’ future employment by making them sign agreements preventing them from working for nearby businesses that compete with the original employer. The courts of North Carolina will not enforce noncompete clauses that are excessively restrictive. Pursuant to a recent executive order by President Biden, federal laws about non-compete clauses may be changing soon.
If you find provisions in your contract that you want to modify, the Charlotte employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you suggest the best words in which to express the modified provisions and negotiate with your employer to make the changes.
Disputes Over Pay, Benefits, and Classification
Federal law requires employers to provide overtime pay to employees who work more than 40 hours in a week. For every hour you work past the 40th one, your employer must pay you one and a half times your hourly rate. This means that, if your wage is $18.00 per hour, and you work 44 hours one week, you get paid $18.00 for each of the first 40 hours and then $27.00 per hour for the last four hours. Sometimes employers do fancy math to make it look like you did not work more than 40 hours. This could mean asking you to stay and do extra tasks after you have clocked out.
The biggest way that employers cheat employees out of overtime pay is by pretending that the workers are not employees at all, but rather independent contractors. The difference between an employee and an independent contractor is that employees get a W-2 tax form, whereas independent contractors get a 1099, but the work they do might be very similar. The IRS is more than happy to play along, because it still gets its money, except that 1099 workers pay a higher tax rate. Taxes are not the only reason that classifying someone as an independent contractor if they work for you long-term is unfair. Employers are also exempt from providing health insurance benefits for independent contractors, whereas they must pay them for employees. The Charlotte employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you if your employer has misclassified you as an independent contractor.
Breach of Contract Claims
North Carolina is an at-will employment state. This means that, unless you have an employment contract, your employer can fire you at any time for any reason. Therefore, you are in a strong position legally if you have an employment contract at all. If your employer does not fulfill their obligations as listed in your contract, you have the right to sue for breach of contract. Breach of contract applies not only if your employer terminates your employment before the contract period ends, but also if your employer does not pay you as much as they promised in the contract, or if they do not provide the working conditions they promised.
Federal law prevents workplace discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, and disability. North Carolina law also prevents discrimination based on military status and against people who have been diagnosed with hemoglobin C trait, sickle cell trait, or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Discrimination can take any of the following forms, among others:
- Refusal to hire
- Denial of promotions or raises
- Unlawful termination of employment
- Harassment or a hostile work environment
- Refusal to make reasonable accommodations for your disability
- Retaliation after you complain about discrimination or request accommodations
If you have experienced any type of discrimination from anyone at your place of employment because of one of these protected characteristics, talk to a lawyer about the remedies available to you.
Contact a North Carolina Employment Lawyer About Disputes With Your Employer
An employment lawyer can help you stand up for your rights in the workplace. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Charlotte, North Carolina to set up a consultation.