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Employee Assigned to Charlotte Operation But Working in South Carolina Cannot File North Carolina Comp Claim

    Client Alerts
  • October 05, 2015
Employers in cities like Charlotte that straddle state lines sometimes face interesting questions about the applicability of which state’s laws to their employment decisions. An employee may live in South Carolina, commute to work in North Carolina, and have job responsibilities in one or both states. Last month, the North Carolina Supreme Court concluded that mere assignment of a South Carolina employee to a Charlotte home office does not confer jurisdiction by North Carolina over his workers’ compensation claim.

In Burley v. U.S. Foods, Inc., the plaintiff was hired to work from the company’s Columbia, South Carolina location. He worked exclusively in South Carolina and Georgia. The employer closed its Columbia operation, and the plaintiff elected to be assigned to its Charlotte location, but continued working in the same states as before. He alleged a workplace injury occurring in Georgia, but attempted to file a workers’ comp claim in North Carolina.

The North Carolina Supreme Court concluded that the modification of the plaintiff’s employment relationship to have him report to the Charlotte location did not grant North Carolina jurisdiction over his claim. The original South Carolina contract remained in effect despite the new assignment and accompanying pay increases. North Carolina workers’ comp statutes only confer jurisdiction to that state if the contract of employment is made in North Carolina. Modification of an existing employment relationship does not meet this standard.

Although this case specifically involved workers’ compensation jurisdiction, its holdings may apply to other employment situations. If an employee and employer create an employment relationship in another state, and if the employee in question continues to exclusively work in that state, assignment alone to a North Carolina office for administrative purposes will not confer North Carolina jurisdiction for state law claims relating to such employment relationship.