In addition to the leave provided by your employer's discretionary policies on vacation time, sick leave, personal days, or paid time off (PTO), you may have a legal right to take time off work for specific reasons under federal and North Carolina laws. For example, if you are caring for an ailing family member or recovering from childbirth, you may have a right to leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). North Carolina law provides additional leave rights, including the right to time off for a child's school activities, domestic violence leave, military leave, and more.
This article provides an overview of your right to time off from work in North Carolina. For more information, see our page on employee leave rights.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for a seriously ill family member (spouse, parent, or child), recuperate from their own serious health conditions, bond with a new child, or handle certain practical matters arising from a family member's military service. The FMLA also requires employers to give employees up to 26 weeks off to care for a family member who suffered or exacerbated a serious illness or injury while serving in the military. (For purposes of this military family leave provision only, employees may take leave to care for a broader set of family members, including siblings, grandparents, and cousins, if they are next of kin to an injured service member.)
The FMLA applies to employers in all states with at least 50 employees. Employees are eligible only if they have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and have worked 1,250 hours in the 12 months before taking leave. (Learn much more about your rights under the FMLA at our Taking Family and Medical Leave page.)
Some states have created laws that provide employees with leave for family and medical reasons. Sometimes these laws overlap with the FMLA and don't create additional rights. Often, however, state law applies to a wider set of employers, has more relaxed eligibility requirements for employees, or covers a broader set of family members. In North Carolina, employees have the right to time off for a child's school activities.
All North Carolina employers must give employees time off to attend or otherwise be involved in their child's school. All employees are entitled to this type of leave; there are no special eligibility requirements. Employees may take up to four hours of unpaid leave per year for a child's school activities.
Another federal law, the Unformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) gives eligible employees the right to be reinstated to their jobs after taking up to five years off for service in the U.S. military. (Find out all about USERRA in Nolo's article, Taking Military Leave.) Employers may not discriminate against employees based on their military service. And, employees may be fired only for good cause for a period of up to one year after they return from service, even if they would otherwise work at will. (See Employment At Will: What Does It Mean? to learn more.)
The laws of many states extend similar rights to employees who serve in the state's military, including the right to take time off from work and to be reinstated afterwards. In North Carolina, members of the state National Guard who are called to active state duty by the governor are entitled to take unpaid leave. Unless the employer's circumstances make it unreasonable to do so, the returning employee must be reinstated to his or her previous position or to a position of comparable seniority, status, and salary. Employers may not fire or otherwise discriminate against an employee because of membership in the National Guard or fire an employee who is called up for emergency military service.
North Carolina law also gives employees the right to take time off work, without fear of retaliation, for the civic responsibility of serving on a jury. Employers must allow employees to take time off to serve on a jury and cannot demote employees because of jury service. Time off to serve on a jury is unpaid. However, special rules apply to exempt employees. Under federal law, employers typically cannot deduct an exempt, salaried employee's pay for time spent serving on a jury, unless the employee did no work for the entire week. For more information, see our article on pay docking.
Most states have passed laws requiring employers to give employees time off to vote. In some states, this time must be paid. However, North Carolina doesn't have a voting leave law.
All North Carolina employers, regardless of size, must allow employees to take a reasonable amount of time off work to obtain (or attempt to obtain) an order of protection from domestic violence for the employee or the employee's minor child. Employers may not fire, discipline, demote, or refuse to promote an employee who takes this type of leave.