More Business Regulations Discussed
Special Report - January 25, 2010
A legislative study committee met January 20th to consider new regulations and incentives intended to promote work and family balance in North Carolina. The Joint Select Committee on Work/Family Balance met January 20 to hear two presentations on the status and perceived shortcomings of North Carolina workforce laws as they relate to flexibility for those with familial responsibilities.
John Quinterno of South by North Strategies, a policy research and communications firm in Chapel Hill, gave an overview of workforce participation by demographic. According to Quinterno, 4.6 million of the seven million North Carolinians over the age of 16 choose to seek employment. He also addressed some of the primary reasons for the so-called “wage gap” between men and women in the workplace. Quinterno pointed out that, “Women engage in the workforce differently” in that they typically choose lower wage jobs and are more likely to work part-time than their male counterparts.
The committee also heard from Mike Okun, an attorney who teaches labor and employment law at Wake Forest University and UNC-Chapel Hill. Okun explored North Carolina’s “at will” system of employment, and highlighted what he considers to be deficiencies in it and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, Fair Labor Standards Act, and Pregnancy Discrimination Act. While recognizing that North Carolina is one of a dozen states that allow parents to take a limited amount of time off work to go to their children’s schools, Okun emphasized the lack of guaranteed leave available for both sick days, as well as flex time for caregivers and non-medical situations.
Leaders of the committee expressed concern over a lack of statutory requirements for sick days and leave for parents. There was some discussion as to whether expanding the role of unions and collective bargaining in the state could force employers to offer more flexibility, and paid time off to employees whose family situations may benefit from it.
The committee will meet next on February 17.
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