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Grimes Teich Anderson LLP
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HB2 recently signed by Governor Pat McCrory is about much more than bathrooms.  From this Henson Fuerst blog:  "The effects of HB2 extend to all North Carolinians. According to an article on WRAL.com, HB2 “appears to wipe away protections for people against being fired based on ‘race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex or disability.’” That means that fired employees cannot seek solutions in North Carolina—they must go to federal court. Expensive federal court. So, basically, good luck if you’re fired because you are age 50 and the company wants to hire someone younger…or if the company doesn’t like that you’re in a wheelchair…or if they want to give your job to a hot female salesperson…or, really, for any reason at all."

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Grimes Teich Anderson is proud to be a sponsor of Helios Warriors, which provides services to veterans suffering physical and emotional pain as a result of their service.  Thanks to veteran and GTA attorney Tod Leaven for his service to his country and for his continued service to veterans through his work with Helios Warriors and other veterans organizations including Buncombe County Veterans Treatment Court.  http://helioswarriors.org/local-attorneys-grimes-teich-and-anderson-are-firstadopt-a-veteran-sponsors/
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Attorney Jessica Leaven was a panelist for the recent 28th Judicial District Bar’s “Professionalism for New Admittees” program held in Asheville.  The 2-day event provided information to new members of the Bar on a range of topics including Organization of a Law Office, Ethics, Attorney/Client relationships and Technology.  Jessica and other members of the panel discussed attorney professionalism and the benefit of mentors.

Jessica’s participation in this event comes on the heels of her presentation at the North Carolina Advocates for Justice 2015 Summer Convention where she conducted a Continuing Legal Education Seminar on Employment Law.  Later this month she joins two other attorneys in presenting opening remarks at the 31st Annual North Carolina/South Carolina Labor and Employment Law Conference being held in South Carolina.
Jessica recently became the Vice-Chair of the North Carolina Bar Association’s Labor and Employment Section.

Attorney Tod Leaven has been appointed to the Noise Ordinance Appeals Board for the City of Asheville.

Attorney Jeff Martin recently spoke at the monthly meeting of the Democratic Women of Greenville, South Carolina where he addressed pending legislation in South Carolina.  The title of his talk:  “Opposing Opt-out Workers’ Compensation Legislation: A Bipartisan Approach.”

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If you believe your military discharge doesn't accurately reflect your military service, you may be able to get an upgrade.  Grimes Teich Anderson attorney Tod Leaven explains when an upgrade may be possible.

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Driver confusion at green lights often lead to traffic accidents.  Grimes Teich Anderson attorney Brian Buchanan explains in this blog.

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Congratulations to Grimes Teich Anderson attorney Brian A. Buchanan for his AV Preeminent® rating from Martindale-Hubbell which calls the rating its highest.  Martindale-Hubbell® uses a peer review system to determine its attorney ratings.  The company says the ratings are developed using a combination of “achieving Very High General Ethical Standards Rating” and a High Legal Ability Rating among reviewing peers.  The AV Preeminent® rating is “a testament to the fact that a lawyer's peers rank him or her at the highest level of professional excellence.”  Brian is a partner at Grimes Teich Anderson where his practice focuses on Social Security Disability, Personal Injury and Eminent Domain law.
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Grimes Teich Anderson attorney Henry Teich represented people in 3 of the cases mentioned in this NPR report.  These cases are public record. Henry is hopeful that the hospital has implemented real change in the way it treats its injured employees. 

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Can My Boss Fire Me and Give No Reason?

As an employment law attorney at Grimes Teich Anderson LLP I have head this question many times.  The answer is that almost all private sector employees in North Carolina are "at will" employees. That means that an employee is hired for an indefinite period of time and may be terminated for any reason or no reason at all, with or without notice, as long as they are not terminated for an illegal reason that is prohibited by federal or state laws.

Some employees, usually medical or other professionals, actually have employment contracts, verbal or written, for a definite term of employment, or providing that employment can only be terminated "for cause." However, even in some written employment contracts, there are provisions that the contract may be terminated "at will."
North Carolina law has very limited exceptions to employment "at will" created by the courts and the legislature. The North Carolina courts have recognized that an employee cannot be terminated in violation of public policy. For example, an employee cannot be fired for refusing to violate the law at their employer's request, for engaging in legally protected activity, or for opposing their employer's activity that is illegal or contrary to public policy. The North Carolina Court of Appeals has set forth a rule that the public policy cannot be based on federal law, but must be set forth in North Carolina's constitution, statutes, or regulations.

There are some other North Carolina laws which may protect an employee who is being fired depending on the circumstances. For example, an employee cannot be terminated for being absent due to jury service or for being subpoenaed as a witness for court proceedings. The North Carolina Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (REDA) prohibits discrimination or retaliation against an employee who engages in "protected activities" with regard to a wide range of areas, including workers’ compensation claims, wage and hour issues, workplace safety rights, mine safety and health, sickle cell and hemoglobin C carriers, genetic testing, National Guard service, juvenile justice system, domestic violence, pesticide exposure, and drug paraphernalia. North Carolina also has a Smokers Rights Act that is not limited to tobacco use and makes it illegal to terminate an employee for "the lawful use of lawful products during nonworking hours."

Employees of the State of North Carolina have protection from termination if they "blow the whistle" on violations of law, fraud, misappropriation, danger, or gross mismanagement, waste, or abuse of authority in or relating to any state programs and operations.
Employees of state and local governments and public school teachers have a broad range of additional protections relating to being terminated, which may include being terminated only for "just cause," receiving notice of the reasons for the termination, and the right to a grievance, hearing, or other review if the employee feels he/she should not have been terminated.

Employees working in North Carolina also have rights under federal laws that protect employees from discrimination on the basis of such factors as sex, race, color, national origin, religion, disability, age, military service, use of employee or retirement benefits, and taking leave as a result of the serious health condition of an employee or their family members and/or as a result of the birth or the adoption of a child.

These laws do not apply to all employees and employers and there are many exceptions and exemptions. Below is a sample of federal laws which give employees job protection:
·  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discrimination because of race, color, sex, religion, or national origin
·  Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which prohibits employers with 20 or more employees from discrimination because of age
·  Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Americans with Disabilities Amendment Act (ADAA), which prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discrimination because of disability
·  Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide unpaid leave to qualified employees for qualified purposes
·  Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which prohibits employers from retaliation for exercising specified rights related to minimum wage and overtime protections
·  The Uniform Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act (USERRA), which prohibits dismissal on the basis of an employee's military obligations
·  42 U.S.C. § 1981, which prohibits race discrimination in making of contracts, including employment
·  42 U.S.C. § 1983, which prohibits violation of civil rights by persons acting under color of law

Employees have a limited time after their termination to take action if they feel their rights have been violated. For example, employees must file REDA complaints with the North Carolina Department of Labor within 180 days of their termination or they will lose their REDA claims. Thus, employees should not delay in seeking legal advice. An experienced employment law attorney at Grimes Teich Anderson can answer your questions and help determine if you have a case.
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