North Carolina is an “Employment-at-Will” State. This means that unless there is a specific law to protect employees or there is an employment contract providing otherwise, an employer can treat its employees as it sees fit and the employer can discharge an employee at the will of the employer for any reason or no reason at all. This means, that either the employer or the employee may terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without cause, and with or without advance notice. It is also up to each employer to decide if its employees may see their own personnel file or not.
The most common protected categories are those that protect an employee’s civil rights based on age, race, sex, religion, national origin, color, disability [including the Americans with Disability Act (ADA)], or pregnancy. Another protected category is under the Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (REDA), which is administered by the Department of Labor’s Employment Discrimination Bureau (EDB). Under REDA it is illegal for an employer to discriminate, terminate or retaliate against an employee for complaints relating to or actions protected under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), the Mine Safety and Health Act, the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act, and Workers Compensation Act, as well as for carrying the sickle cell trait, use of genetic testing information, participating in the North Carolina National Guard, and participating in the juvenile court system concerning the employee’s child.