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Q: The phone book and internet lists other Charlotte attorneys who practice employment law. Why should I hire the Fosbinder Law Office?

A: We have over two decades of experience in North Carolina aggressively representing employees, and employees only. We consistently appear on the lists of best attorneys, such as “Super Lawyers”,   U.S. News “Best Lawyers”, and Charlotte Magazine’s list of top professionals. Our firm never represents employers. Prior to opening this firm, Julie Fosbinder was a Senior Trial Attorney at the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  Ms. Fosbinder has extensive, successful experience in the courtroom. She has been lead attorney in many jury trials, as well as scores of criminal bench trials, unemployment hearings, and appeals. Our firm’s arbitration award in Allen v. A G.Edwards was the single largest Americans with Disabilities Act award for an individual employee nationwide in NASD proceedings.  Our associate attorney Ms Okoli is a recent graduate of Charlotte Law School, and has already represented clients in more than a dozen unemployment hearings. We will take your case as far as it needs to go.

Q: I’ve heard North Carolina is an employment “at-will” state. Does this mean I can be fired for any reason?

A:   No, you still may bring legal claims if your firing violates an employment law. “At will” means both the employer and employee may end the employment relationship at any time without having to provide a reason.  However, both State and Federal laws protect all employees, even those “at-will”, from being fired for unlawful reasons. What are those unlawful reasons?   They include being fired because of one’s race, age, pregnancy, gender, national origin, ethnic origin, disability, and religion.  You also cannot legally be fired for filing a legitimate workers’ compensation claim, a claim for overtime wages, or a claim of harassment.  There are also numerous “whistleblower” protections that exist for employees who have complained about illegal conduct in the workplace or refused to violate state or federal laws. If you believe you have been fired for any of these reasons or another reason that is unlawful, consult an experienced employment law attorney to determine whether you have any recourse.  

Q: How long after I am fired or harassed do I have to take action against my employer?

A: It depends on the nature of the claim. Strict time limits can prevent employees from pursuing claims for illegal firing or other mistreatment in the workplace. These time limits—also called “statutes of limitations”, vary.  Employees generally have 180 days (approximately 6 months) to file a formal charge of discrimination with the E.E.O.C.  The EEOC handles claims of race, age, disability, religion, gender and national origin discrimination.   This time limit is measured by the last “bad act” taken by your employer and is strictly enforced.  Other time limits for filing claims depend on your particular situation.  Consult an attorney experienced in employment law as soon as possible to ensure your claim is not forfeited.

Q: Can my employer terminate me for simply speaking up against the company?

A:  It depends on what you say and to whom you say it.   Employers cannot legally retaliate against an employee for complaining to their supervisors about unfair treatment based on race, sex, or age, or for filing a legitimate charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or for filing a workers’ compensation claim.  Engaging in a protected activity such as reporting workplace harassment, or refusing to violate federal or state safety requirements cannot be used as a basis for termination.  Public employers cannot legally fire an employee who speaks up or writes about matters of public concern.

Q: What if I think my employer has violated the law, but I am not sure as to whether I want to take action or not. May I speak to an attorney confidentially?

A:  Yes.  All attorneys are obligated by law to keep confidential what clients and even potential clients tell us.  Information regarding your phone call to us, and the information you tell us, will not be shared with anyone outside of our law firm.

Q: I believe I may soon be terminated by my company and think it may be based on discrimination. Should I wait for them to take action before I talk to an attorney?

A: No.  Some employers are very proficient at building paper trails of alleged performance problems, even for long term employees and despite a prior record of positive performance appraisals.  You have more alternatives for resolving employment problems if you consult us while you still employed.  You can take steps to protect your job, address workplace problems, and document current issues.  All of these steps may aid your potential case and help to protect your rights in the unfortunate event of termination.

Q: I am being treated differently than my coworkers, and I have a feeling it is because of my pregnancy, (or age, race, disability, national origin, or religion) but no one has ever told me that. Does that mean I don’t have a case?

A: Not necessarily.  In today’s workplace, unlawful discrimination is rarely blatant or direct.  For example, an older employee may be terminated, told his or her job is being eliminated, and the company will shortly thereafter hire a young college recruit into the very same position with a small change in title or work responsibilities—yet that older worker may still have a good claim for age discrimination.  Or, a Hispanic employee may make a complaint to HR regarding derogatory comments in the workplace and may be shortly thereafter terminated for sudden “performance problems” that are not legitimate. This is, sadly, just some of the forms of unlawful discrimination that take place in the 21st century.

Q: I still have my job, but have been demoted to a new position. I also think I am possibly being paid significantly less than my male (or non-minority or younger) counterparts . . . I just have not been formally terminated. Do I have to be fired to have a case?

A:  No.  Any adverse employment action which results in a loss of pay or other major changes in your working conditions taken against you for an unlawful reason can violate State and Federal employment laws.  A significant reduction in job responsibilities, or even a transfer or reassignment may all trigger the protection of employment laws.