North Carolina Employee Handbooks laws & HR compliance analysis

North Carolina Employee Handbooks: What you need to know

Employee handbooks should be drafted according to the particular needs of each individual workplace and according to the requirements of state and federal law. Employers should try to develop policies and procedures that reflect the company's size, employee needs, and company philosophy. Employers should have an attorney familiar with state labor and employment laws review their handbooks for legal accuracy and timeliness. Outdated or erroneous policies can be as dangerous as having no policies at all.
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Employers should exercise caution when developing handbooks and related policy statements. To avoid implied contract claims, employers should issue only general statements of policy in employee handbooks and should always include an explicit statement reserving the right to alter, amend, or change any handbook policy at any time and for any reason.
North Carolina is an “employment-at-will” state. Therefore, an employer may generally terminate an employment relationship at any time and for any reason unless a collective bargaining agreement, employment contract, existing law, or recognized public policy provides otherwise.
In keeping with a strong at-will standard, the North Carolina courts have generally declined to support or enforce implied contract claims that are based on an employer's unilateral publication and distribution of an employee handbook or policy manual. For example, the courts have refused to uphold employee contract claims that were based on an employee manual provision that stated that employees would become “permanent” employees after completion of a 3-month probationary period (Roberts v. Wake Forest University, 286 S.E.2d 120 (NC Ct.App. 1982)). Also, courts ...

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