the Law

When it comes to family-friendly benefits, employers and employees should understand the policies and worker protections that are required by state and federal law. Outlined below is a quick overview. Employers should consult legal counsel to determine their federal and state obligations. Information provided within does not constitute legal advice.



Family Medical Leave Act- Employers are most likely familiar with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which requires private- sector employers with 50 or more employees, public sector employers, and public or private elementary and secondary schools to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons.

  • The birth of a child or placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care;
  • To care for a spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
  • For a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential job functions;
  • Or for qualifying emergencies arising out of the fact that a spouse, child, or parent is a military member on covered active duty or call to covered active duty status.

Employees may be able to take 26 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness when the employee is the service member’s spouse, child, parent, or next of kin.

To receive FMLA, employees must have worked for an employer for at least 12 months and for at least 1,250 hours of service during the 12-month period immediately preceding the leave. FMLA is unpaid leave; there are no federal laws requiring paid leave following a birth or adoption. Similarly, there are no federal laws requiring paid medical leave (for an employee or a child) or parental leave. Covered employers are required to notify workers about the FMLA, including displaying an FMLA poster.

Since October 2020, under the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act, certain categories of federal civilian employees have access to 12 weeks of paid parental leave for birth, adoption or foster care.


Five states currently offer paid caregiver leave policies, which covers workers following a birth or adoption, and 11 states plus Washington, D.C. offer paid sick leave policies. However, North Carolina does not require employers to give mandatory paid vacation, sick or medical leave (for an employee or a child) or parental leave.

North Carolina is one of a handful of states that offer leave for parents to attend school-related events and activities, though the leave is not paid. Employers must provide employees with four unpaid hours each year.

North Carolina also requires all employers to provide unpaid leave to an employee to obtain a protective order or other relief from domestic violence. The statute does not define what amount of time is allowed, only that it be reasonable.

In May of 2019, NC Governor Cooper signed Executive Order No. 95 to provide state employees in cabinet agencies eight weeks of paid parental leave for employees who give birth, for adoption or foster care or other legal placement of a child. Other eligible state employees will receive four weeks of paid leave to bond with and care for the child. 

Finally, employees who are members of the North Carolina National Guard, a National Guard of another state, or in the US Military are eligible for unpaid leave for active or emergency military duty. The statute does not specify how much leave may be taken.

Flexible Work

Currently there are no federal or state policies that address flexible work.



Fair Labor Standards Act- Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers must provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth, but employers are not required to pay an employee during that break time.

Employers must also provide a place, other than a bathroom, for the employee to express breast milk. If these requirements impose undue hardship, employers with fewer than 50 employees may not be subject to these requirements.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)- Both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which is part of The Affordable Care Act, address pregnancy.

Under the PDA, employers with 15 or more employees may not discriminate against an employee who is pregnant, may become pregnant or has been pregnant. Employees are also protected from harassment at work because of pregnancy.

Additionally, employees may have legal rights to work adjustments that will allow them to do their job without jeopardizing their health:

  • Employers must accommodate pregnant workers under the PDA and similar accommodations are given to other employees who have similar limitations that were not caused by pregnancy.
  • Employers may be required to offer an accommodation under the ADA if an employee has a pregnancy-related medical condition such as cervical insufficiency, anemia, sciatica, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, or depression, that meets the ADA definition of “disability.” Click here for information from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.


North Carolina does not have additional laws that address pregnancy discrimination or accommodations. North Carolina does have a law allowing women to breastfeed in public and private locations —including government buildings — but does not have a separate law to address breastfeeding or expressing milk in the workplace.

Health Care


Affordable Care Act- Though the Affordable Care Act (ACA) does not require employers to provide health benefits to employees, employers with more than 50 workers may face penalties if they don’t make affordable coverage available. Employers are penalized if they do not offer coverage or do not offer coverage that meets minimum value and affordability standards.

View the flowchart of how employer responsibilities work under the Affordable Care Act.


There are no additional state laws addressing health insurance for workers.

Child Care

Though both the federal and state requirements exist for licensing and maintaining child care facilities, neither federal nor state law addresses whether employers are required to provide child care of any kind.

View the overview of North Carolina’s child care licensing requirements.