In a difficult economy, workers need to be ever mindful of potential wage theft violations of employers that deny then their rightful pay, especially at the intersection of federal and state employment laws. In North Carolina, employers who make unlawful deductions to overtime pay or without informed consent are subject to penalties.
Wage laws in North Carolina
Labor laws in North Carolina are a blend of federal and state laws, and one set of laws will supercede the other only where those laws provide greater rights or protections to workers.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) mainly covers issues of minimum wage and overtime pay. The federal and state minimum wage in North Carolina is $7.25 per hour, and federal law requires overtime for nonexempt employees of one and a half times the regular rate of pay. For minimum wage workers in the state, overtime pay is $10.88 per hour.
Unfortunately, a reduction to the federally set overtime threshold for salaried employees in 2020 means that overtime rules now apply to only 15% of full-time salaried workers, and also includes a change in the calculation of bonuses to determine salary.
The raise in the standard salary level means that North Carolina salaried employees who earn less than $684 per week, or $35,568 annually, cannot collect overtime. This law affects most workers in North Carolina who are engaged in professional capacities including executive or administrative functions.
North Carolina also has specific exceptions to the minimum wage requirement, including wage set as a percentage of the current minimum, that affect seasonal, agricultural, disabled, economically disadvantaged or youth workers, whose wages are thus not protected under state or federal minimum wage law.
Filing a claim for wage claims
Under North Carolina law, an employer can only make deductions other than taxes from an employee’s wages with an agreement in writing to specific or blanket deductions, such as the reasonable cost of lodging, meals, clothing or fuel. Deductions can only be made after the employee has received the benefit, and the cost of items such as uniforms, tools or transportation required as part of employment may not be a basis for the deductions.
When workers are misclassified as independent contractors, employers may be attempting to avoid the payment of social security taxes, unemployment insurance or worker’s compensation and overtime pay.
If you are considering filing a claim for wage and hour violations, it is important to be aware of the two-year statute of limitation on claims, as well as shorter deadlines for other legal claims. Above all, seeking legal counsel for your claim is an important first step.