The North Carolina Chamber says it wants changes to a state law that limits protections to LGBT people, but only offers specifics on a provision that blocks workplace discrimination lawsuits from state courts.
After weeks of silence on House Bill 2, the state’s business lobby issued a statement Wednesday that called for tweaks to the controversial law, which has created a backlash among some major corporations and trade groups, including the cancelation of some planned expansions and conventions moving to other states. (Full statement reprinted below.)
The N.C. Chamber is asking lawmakers to allow cases by people who think their employer discriminated against them because of their age, sex, race or other factors be heard in state courts. But the group wants to shorten the filing deadline from three years to 180 days, create a screening process in the state Department of Labor and allow lawsuits to be shifted to the North Carolina Business Court.
The Chamber didn’t take a position on parts of House Bill 2 that limit legal protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, even though local chambers in Raleigh, Durham and other cities have said those provisions are hurting business. The state group said only that discrimination language in the law be modified to match federal statutes, which affect only businesses that receive federal funds, are involved in interstate commerce or have a certain number of employees.
“As the state’s largest, broad-based business advocacy organization, our membership has diverse opinions and perspectives that reflect your businesses, your communities and your personal points of view,’ Chamber President and Chief Executive Lew Ebert wrote in a letter to the group’s members.
House Bill 2 also blocks local governments from requiring businesses pay more than the $7.25 statewide minimum wage.
Letter to Members: Solutions on House Bill 2
(As published at NCChamber website)
To our valued members:
Since the Charlotte City Council passed a city non-discrimination ordinance on February 22, North Carolina has been at the center of a national story – indeed, an international story – and seemingly each week, new events occur, warranting attention, analysis and discussion. One month after the passage of the Charlotte ordinance, the General Assembly passed House Bill 2. Three weeks later, Governor McCrory issued an Executive Order reaffirming parts of HB2 while asking for changes in other areas. Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice notified state leaders that in their legal opinion, House Bill 2 violates Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. Governor McCrory responded this week by filing a lawsuit requesting declarative judgment regarding Title VII. That same day, legislative leaders filed their own lawsuit, regarding Title VII as well as Title IX of the federal Education Amendments Act of 1972, and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that the U.S. DOJ would pursue a civil action against North Carolina, the University of North Carolina System, and its leaders. As we stated on March 30, and throughout these dynamic three months, the North Carolina Chamber has been thoughtfully analyzing House Bill 2 and subsequent executive orders and lawsuits.
As the state’s largest, broad-based business advocacy organization, our membership has diverse opinions and perspectives that reflect your businesses, your communities and your personal points of view, just like the general public and members of the General Assembly. To that end, on all issues, we engage our members in a process that is deliberate and respectful of the complexity of the issue and broad range of opinions reflected within our membership. That process and analysis ultimately guides what we say and do. While conducting this process, we have been and will continue to be a part of the dialogue on this issue. We will represent the views of our members to elected officials and, when asked by them, offer suggestions.
Based on a detailed analysis that will continue as this policy continues to evolve, the North Carolina Chamber, on behalf of its 35,000 members who employ 1.26 million workers in North Carolina, recommends the North Carolina General Assembly take the following actions to alleviate concerns from the business community on this issue.
- – Modify North Carolina law to clarify discrimination in employment and by those providing public accommodations to match the protections defined in federal statute. While the federal protections apply only to organizations or employers receiving federal funds, engaged in interstate commerce, or of at least a certain size, the North Carolina protections will apply to all organizations and employers engaged in business or commerce in North Carolina.
- – Provide that claims for recovery of damages resulting from employment discrimination may be brought in the North Carolina courts. The claimant must first file with the N.C. Department of Labor a charge of discrimination within 180 days from the day the discrimination took place and the NC DOL must issue a Notice of Right to Sue. This provides a framework for handling claims of employment discrimination similar to that provided for handling claims of employment discrimination in the federal system. Additionally, we recommend that the law provide that any lawsuit for recovery of damages resulting from employment discrimination may be designated by either party to the lawsuit as a “mandatory complex business case” resulting in its removal to the North Carolina Business Court. The option to remove these cases to the North Carolina Business Court allows for cases involving claims of employment discrimination to be handled by a specialized court, which will develop expertise in these matters. Because the North Carolina Business Court must issue written opinions in connection with its decisions, a statewide body of law regarding claims of employment discrimination will develop resulting in greater predictability for employers, employees and the bar.
- – Private businesses may set their own rules, subject to compliance with North Carolina law and federal law. This allows private businesses to adopt rules designed to fit their particular situations, while at the same time achieving consistency between North Carolina law and federal law.
North Carolina employers believe in treating all employees equally. The North Carolina Chamber stands ready to be a part of real, thoughtful and meaningful dialogue that reflects the best of North Carolina values to address the concerns of all parties. North Carolina is widely regarded as one of the best states in America to do business. In fact, our state’s economy has been the fastest growing in the nation since 2013. We must continue to focus on legislation and public policy that stimulates job growth and economic development.
(Signed) Lewis Ebert
Web Editor: Matthew Burns