RALEIGH (March 29, 2016) — Most coverage of HB2, passed by the General Assembly and signed into law last week by Governor McCrory, has thus far focused on the provisions repealing Charlotte’s recent anti-discrimination ordinance, especially the provisions addressing bathroom accommodations for trans-gendered residents. But it’s crucial to know how much farther HB2 goes than just addressing bathroom accommodations—the bill actually guts core worker anti-discrimination protections that state law has long provided to workers.
Specifically, Section 3.2 of the bill (middle of page 4) eliminates a critical protection under state law for employees who are fired based on their race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex or handicap. HB2 ended an employee’s private right of action based on the North Carolina Equal Employment Practices Act (NCEEPA), N.C. Gen. Stat. § 143-422.1, et seq., to sue an employer who fires him or her for one of these discriminatory reasons. According to a compilation of state laws by the National Conference of State Legislatures, North Carolina will join Mississippi as the only state without any state law protecting private sector employees from workplace discrimination on the basis of race, gender, age or disability.
Since 1985, workers in North Carolina who have been fired because of their religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, or handicap have been able to bring claims in state court under the common law theory of wrongful discharge in violation of public policy, based upon the public policy stated in the NCEEPA.
By eliminating the NCEEPA as the basis for any civil action, the General Assembly has severely restricted victims of discrimination from meaningful redress. As defenders of H2 were quick to point out, employees can still bring a claim under federal anti-discrimination laws, but for many victims of workplace discrimination that is not a viable option. Federal courts are much less accessible because of the high cost of filing a claim, time-consuming administrative exhaustion requirements, a and a very short deadline to bring a claim (180 days as compared to 3 years in state court). The Human Relations Commission, which the General Assembly has not funded adequately, does not offer victims any redress unless their employer agrees to conciliate.
The Justice Center will make the following experts available for comment on this unprecedented and over-reaching provision:
Bill Rowe, General Counsel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Carol Brooke, Senior Staff Attorney (email@example.com)
Allan Freyer, Director, Workers’ Rights Project (firstname.lastname@example.org)
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Julia Hawes, email@example.com, 919.863.2406.