Have you ever felt annoyed by nasty thunderstorms, snowstorms, or bad weather that impact your day? How would you feel if those storms stopped you from getting to work and resulted in a smaller paycheck? If you are an hourly employee working in North Carolina for an employer with no adverse weather policy, then this situation could be a reality. Currently, no laws in North Carolina require employers to pay their employees who have been prevented from working due to severe weather conditions.
No Public Policy Protections
According to the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL), “it is up to each individual employer to come up with its own adverse weather policy. There are no labor laws that require an employer to have such a policy in effect.” This position is likely tied to North Carolina’s employment-at-will stance. The NCDOL states, “the term “employment-at-will” simply means that unless there is a specific law to protect employees or there is an employment contract providing otherwise, then 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.” Consequently, with no public policy to protect employees during inclement weather, employers can choose to not pay employees for periods not worked during severe weather and could possibly terminate their employment based on the “at-will” status.
If terminated, could you sue your employer for wrongful discharge? In Carrington v. Carolina Day School, Inc, a 2020 case from the North Carolina Court of Appeals, the Court stated, “to prevail on a claim for wrongful discharge in violation of North Carolina public policy, the plaintiff must identify a specified North Carolina public policy that was violated by an employer in discharging the employee.” Unfortunately, with no public policy for the employer to have violated, it is unlikely any suit for wrongful discharge would be successful.
Does the analysis change if the local authorities recommend not traveling on roads due to the conditions? The case of Ehmann v. Medflow, Inc, a 2022 North Carolina Superior Court decision, highlights three bases of wrongful discharge, “when an employee is fired (1) for refusing to violate the law at the employer’s request, (2) for engaging in a legally protected activity, or (3) based on some activity by the employer contrary to law or public policy.” While heeding the advice of local authorities is wise, their recommendations are not binding law. As such, the employee would not be violating any law by traveling to work and would likely be unsuccessful in any pursuit of wrongful discharge.
What to Do
If you have experienced a similar situation, have questions regarding your employment circumstances, or would like additional information, please contact our office.
Revolution Law Group is located in Greensboro, NC, and serves individuals and small businesses throughout the Triad and surrounding areas. To contact us please visit Revolution.law or call 336-333-7907.
The information included here is for informational purposes only, is not exhaustive of all considerations when creating documents, is not intended to be legal advice, and should not be relied upon for that purpose. We strongly recommend you consult with an attorney and do not attempt to create your own documents.