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Know the Laws: North Carolina

UPDATED August 17, 2016

Workplace Protections

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Being a victim of domestic violence can affect many parts of your life, including your job.  Under North Carolina employment discrimination law, your employer may not fire you, demote you, deny you a promotion or discipline you because you took reasonable time off from work to get a domestic violence protective order.  You may file a complaint against an employer if you feel that s/he has fired you or because you are victim of domestic violence who took time off work to obtain a protective order.  Also, if you have to quit your job because of domestic violence, you may still be entitled to unemployment benefits.  The laws that protect you are explained below.

Basic info

back to topCan an employer fire me based on the fact that I am a victim of domestic violence who took time off to file for a protective order?

No.  In North Carolina, an employer cannot may not fire you solely because you are a victim of domestic violence who took time off work to file for a domestic violence protective order.*

Note: This law only applies to employers with fifteen or more employees.**

* NCGS § 50B-5.5(a); NCGS § 95-241(a)(5)
** NCGS § 143- 422.2

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back to topIf I have to miss work due to a domestic violence protective order proceeding, can I be fired?

No. If you are the victim of  domestic violence and you have to miss work to obtain a protective order, an employer cannot fire you as long as you comply with your employer’s time-off policy or procedure.  If you have a domestic violence emergency that does not allow you to comply with your employer’s time-off policy, then you may have to provide documentation of why you were absent from the workplace.*  For example, if you are taking off to apply for a 50B domestic violence protection order, you can provide a copy of the ex parte order.

* NCGS § 50B-5.5

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Steps to take to deal with discrimination

back to topIf my employer did discriminate against me because I sought a protective order, what can I do?

If you believe you have been the subject of employment discrimination because you took time off to file for a domestic violence protective order, you can file a complaint with the North Carolina Department of Labor Employment Discrimination Bureau.*   If you were discriminated against you may have two options.  You may file a complaint with the NC Department of Labor ("DOL") or you may hire an attorney to file suit against your employer.   If you decide to file a complaint with the NCDOL directly they will investigate the complaint on your behalf with no cost to you.   According to the North Carolina Department of Labor website, these are the steps to take if you think you were discriminated against:

  1. Call the Employment Discrimination Bureau (EDB) Information Officer and explain your situation at 1-800-NCLABOR.
  2. If appropriate, a complaint form and instructional information is mailed to you.
  3. The complaint must be in writing and signed by you.
  4. The completed and signed complaint must be filed with the EDB within 180 days of the date of the last retaliatory or discriminatory act.
  5. After the complaint is filed:
    • A copy of the complaint is sent to the employer;
    • The file is assigned to a discrimination investigator;
    • The employer is contacted for facts, documents and statements;
    • You are contacted for facts, documents and statements;
    • Other parties/ witnesses may be contacted for information or documents;
    • A determination (decision) is made based on the evidence obtained;
    • If the employer fails to provide information, a determination may be made based on the available evidence in the file; if you do not cooperate with the investigation, the complaint will be dismissed.
        6. If the Employment Discrimination Bureau determines that the employer has violated the law, you are given a “Right-to-Sue letter” which permits you to file a civil lawsuit. The lawsuit must be filed within 90 days of the date of the Right-to-Sue letter. Most likely, you will need an attorney to file the lawsuit for you.  Even if the EDB does not grant you the “Right-to-Sue letter,” you may still be able to file your own lawsuit with an attorney.
        7. If the DOL finds that there is a violation of the law, before filing a formal law suit, they will try to fix the violations by meeting with the employer and convincing him/her to correct the violations.  If this effort fails, either:
    • The Commissioner of Labor may file a civil action in Superior Court on behalf of the complainant (you); or
    • The complainant (you) may be given a Right-to-Sue letter which permits you to file a civil lawsuit in Superior Court. The lawsuit must be filed within 90 days of the date of the Right-to-Sue letter.**
* NCGS § 50B-5.5(b)
** Adapted from the North Carolina Department of Labor website.

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Unemployment benefits

back to topIf I need to quit my job due to domestic violence, can I get unemployment benefits?

Normally if a person quits her job, s/he would not be eligible for unemployment benefits but there is an exception for victims of domestic violence.  If you are a victim of domestic violence and you believe that continued employment will put you or your family in immediate danger, you can quit and still be eligible for unemployment benefits if you can provide evidence of domestic violence including: (i) law enforcement, court, or federal agency records or files; (ii) documentation from a domestic violence or sexual assault program if you are a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault; or (iii) documentation from a religious, medical, or other professional who you went to for help in dealing with the domestic violence.*  Unlike the above laws explained on the rest of this page, it is not required that you have a protective order to qualify for these unemployment benefits.

* NCGS § 96-14(1)(f)

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