In North Carolina, employers are not required to provide sick leave to employees, either paid or unpaid. If a North Carolina employee is not covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an employee can be fired or disciplined for missing work for a medical reason, even with a doctor’s note. From Charlotte to Raleigh and throughout North Carolina, many employers recognize the value of providing paid sick leave for employees. But for a large population of North Carolina employees, getting sick means facing possible job loss or discipline for incurring unexcused absences.
Currently, 11 states and the District of Columbia have passed paid sick leave laws. Many other states, including North Carolina, have proposed legislation pending that if passed will provide employees with the right to take paid sick leave. In North Carolina, House Bill 46, entitled the “Economic Security Act of 2019,” is one of those bills. If passed, HB 46 would require employers with 15 or more employees to provide paid sick leave to employees. In addition to providing paid sick leave for North Carolina workers, the proposed law would:
- increase North Carolina’s state minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $15.00 per hour over a five year period;
- guarantee pay equity for women;
- increase the tip-credit minimum wage for tipped employees;
- provide additional penalties for employers who fail to pay wages earned by employees and increase the current statute of limitations for recovering unpaid wages from 2 years to 3 years; and
- enact new “ban the box” protections that would prohibit employers from requesting criminal history information from applicants on initial application forms.
Admittedly, it is not likely that the North Carolina legislature will pass HB46 in 2019. Improvements for the rights of employees will come slowly in North Carolina. But with proposed bills like HB46, the voices of employees are being heard in the statehouse. It does not matter whether you live in large cities like Charlotte, Asheville or Winston Salem or a smaller cities like Gastonia or Huntersville — employees across North Carolina all face the same need to earn a living wage to support themselves and their families. Unfortunately, we all get sick from time to time. North Carolina employees should not have to choose between their health and risking their jobs. It is time for mandatory paid sick leave in North Carolina.