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Articles Posted in Harassment

Today, the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in three separate cases establishing that Title VII prohibits employment discrimination against homosexual and transgender individuals. Title VII of the rainbowflag-300x199Civil Rights Act of 1964 is one of the primary federal laws that provides protections for employees. In Title VII, Congress outlawed workplace discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.

When I first started practicing employment-law, there was no federal or North Carolina precedent to support pursuing a claim on behalf of a homosexual or transgender employee who suffered employment discrimination. I cannot count the number of times that I had to tell gay, lesbian, or transgender individuals who were subjected to discrimination in the workplace that there was no legal basis to support their claims. It was unfathomable and frustrating to repeatedly explain that discrimination against homosexual and transgender employees was entirely legal.

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For work injuries after June 24, 2011, North Carolina Law encourages employers to provide “light duty” positions while the injured worker is recovering from a work injury. These can be made up positions – a job for which the employer couldn’t justify hiring someone to do. Sometimes the tasks are of some use to the company, other times the job is just “make work” that is of little value. In most cases, light duty positions need to be approved by the authorized treating physician and be consistent with the doctor’s work restrictions. Light duty can be a good thing for all concerned if the injured worker can transition back to productive employment with the company.

Sometimes an employer will make life very difficult for an injured worker after they return to work. Supervisors may be verbally abusive, saying things in a humiliating or demeaning manner, or constantly complain about the injured employee’s work. Employers may also require other employees to carry the extra load to compensate for the injured worker’s limitations, which can cause bad feelings. In an abusive situation, the injured worker may feel as if it is better to quit than to agonize over what the employer will say or do next. If the person quits or is fired, and workers compensation benefits do not start up immediately, there will be problems paying their bills. So, that person does the best they can to do what the employer asks so they can keep their job.

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Almost all private sector employees in North Carolina are “at will” employees. That means that an employee is hired for an indefinite period of time and may be terminated for any reason or no reason at all, with or without notice, as long as they are not terminated for an illegal reason that is prohibited by federal or state laws.

Does Having a Contract Protect Me?

Some employees, usually medical or other professionals, actually have employment contracts, verbal or written, for a definite term of employment, or providing that employment can only be terminated “for cause.” However, even in some written employment contracts, there are provisions that the contract may be terminated “at will.”

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