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Unemployment Benefits in North Carolina

Residents of North carolina who lose their job may be entitled to unemployment benefits, through the North Carolina Employment Security Commission. To be eligible for benefits, the applicant generally must be a resident of North Carolina, must have worked and earned income in North Carolina, be able to work, be looking for a job, and have lose his or her job through means other than his misconduct. A determination of whether an individual is entitled to benefits in North Carolina due to unemployment depends on the facts of the claim, as well as application of statutes, rules, and case law. Some of the general rules are described below.

The worker must register for work with the North Carolina Employment Security Commission (ESC), must file a claim for each week of benefits he requests, and must actively seek week during those weeks. The website for the ESC provides information regarding filing a claim for unemployment benefits.

Misconduct which disqualifies an applicant for benefits is defined as conduct evincing such willful or wanton disregard of an employer's interest as is found in deliberate violations or disregard of standards of behavior which the employer has the right to expect of an employee, or in carelessness or negligence of such degree or recurrence as to manifest equal culpability, wrongful intent or evil design, or to show an intentional and substantial disregard of the employer's interests or of the employee's duties and obligations to the employer.

In order to be eligible for benefits, the employee must either be discharged, or must leave the employer for good cause attributable to the employer. An employee with a disability or health condition, who leaves his job due to that condition, is entitled to benefits if the medical condition justified his leaving work and if he gave reasonable notice of the condition to the employer prior to his leaving. (A health condition of a family member can also qualify an employee to benefits.)

The employee's violation of a work rule does not rise to the level of misconduct if the employee's actions were reasonable and were taken with good cause. Further, discharge in violation of an employer's own rules should not be the basis of disqualifying a claimant from benefits.

The amount of benefits is based on the earnings during the "base period." This amount is typically determined after the applicant files for unemployment benefits. Benefits are not paid for the first week, which is a waiting period.

The initial determination of whether a worker in North Carolina is entitled to unemployment benefits is typically made by an "adjudicator." This decision can be appealed, which is commonly heard by an "appeals referee." At this stage, a true hearing is conducted. The decision of the appeals referee can be further appealed to the Employment Security Commission. This decision can then be appealed to Superior Court.

John Kirby has represented discharged employees, seeking unemployment benefits, in hearings before appeals referees. He has also appeared in an appeal to the Employment Security Commission, and in an appeal to Superior Court of a decision of the Employment Security Commission.

John Kirby has also represented and advised individuals regarding claims for wrongful termination of employment, non-compete agreements, and other employment-related matters.

New cases on Employment Law are produced by our appellate courts. In the recent case of Young v. Kimberly Clark (February 21, 2012), an employee sued her employer alleging that the employer had terminated her for filing a workers compensation claim. The employer sought documentation from the employee regarding (a) her prior tax returns and (b) her medical records. In her suit, the employee alleged that she had sustained emotional distress, as well as lost earnings. The lower court ruled that she had to produce her tax and medical records, because those were relevant to her claims. The Court of Appeals affirmed, noting that the employee had put these matters at issue. They rejected her argument that the medical records to be produced should be limited to those affecting her mental condition, as opposed to those affecting her physical condition.