In North Carolina, unless the employer and employee have entered into an employment contract (that is, a legally enforceable agreement of the terms and conditions of employment), employees are hired and terminated “at-will.” In other words, the employer is free to decide which candidates to hire and to reject all others, for any reason that suits the employer. Likewise, the employee is free to decide whom they want to work for and the terms of employment.
Moreover, the employer is free to decide at any time to promote, reward, demote, or dismiss any employee already working for the employer, for any reason or for no reason at all.
That said, employers may not exercise any of these rights if doing so violates equal employment opportunity laws.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was established via the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to administer and enforce civil rights laws against workplace discrimination. All states are required to comply with federal equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws. States and municipalities can expand protections to their citizens. North Carolina follows federal law for the most part. Be aware that laws and regulations are subject to change.
The following sections cover various anti-discrimination laws that must all be understood and followed to remain in compliance.