Most Frequently Asked Human Resources Questions

As an employer’s association, one of Catapult’s most used Member services is our HR Advice Line. While most calls are unique and require special attention from our experts, often the same or similar situations are experienced by numerous organizations. Here are a few frequently asked questions from Member companies to keep on-hand.

Q: What is “Employment At-will”?

A: Without a contract of employment, employers have the right to terminate an employee for any reason in accordance with all local, state and federal laws. Likewise, employees have the right to resign at any time, for any reason. To protect against implied contracts that could negate at-will, employers should have well-worded policies. Eliminate references to permanent or steady employees and “just cause” terminations. Because of all the varying employment laws and regulations, employment-at-will should never be a basis for termination!

Q: Must I pay out PTO when an employee leaves?

A: In NC and SC, you must pay out accrued, but unused, paid time off when an employee leaves your company, regardless of the reason, unless you have a clearly communicated written forfeiture policy. Nothing in the policy can be left up for interpretation. Here’s some suggested language: Any accrued, but unused, paid time off will be paid to you upon resignation of employment, provided you offer to work a two-week notice, as outlined in our Resignation Policy. Failure to provide a notice will result in the forfeiture of accrued, unused paid time off. This paid time off payout will be less any money owed the company, as authorized by law. If you involuntarily separate from the company for any reason, other than a reduction in force, you will not be paid your accrued, unused paid time off.

Q: Is my company’s liability for harassment in the workplace limited to situations that occur at work?

A: No. The company is obligated to treat harassment situations involving one or more employees with the same level of responsibility regardless of where it occurred. This is also true regardless of who else is involved, including people who don’t work for you.

Q: Is there a federal or NC/SC law that requires employers to provide a break or meal period to employees?

A: No, but we recommend one to be considered an employer of choice and to better retain your talent. Plus, depending on the nature of a person’s job, you’ll want to consider the OSHA general duty clause for safety practices. If you provide breaks, the Fair Labor Standards Act provides pay guidelines.

The past year has resulted in many significant changes to employment law. Ensure you’re ahead of the curve and join us for the 2022 Employment and Labor Law Update! During the May 19 and 20 event, attorneys will deep-dive into the latest need-to-know topics, including what current legal land mines to avoid and compliance best practices. Year-round, Catapult Members also have access to employment law attorneys who advise you in making sound business decisions. As a Catapult Member, a wealth of knowledge is just a phone call away!

By Stephanie Dillon, Catapult HR Advisor