New NC Law Affects More Than Bathrooms and LGBT Rights

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) – Lawmakers in Raleigh who supported House Bill 2 are proud they were able to stop Charlotte from implementing a non-discrimination ordinance, commonly called the “bathroom bill.”

NC Governor Pat McCrory signed the new bill into law Wednesday night, but that hasn’t stopped the debate. Lawmakers passed the bill in a special session and the Governor signed it all within one day.

Equality North Carolina said they are disappointed that Raleigh stepped in.

But not everyone is upset. When Charlotte City Council members were debating the non-discrimination ordinance, there were those that opposed it. The NC Values Coalition also said they are thankful to state lawmakers who were concerned by the grave dangers of Charlotte’s bathroom ordinance.

Thursday afternoon, Charlotte’s LGBT community hosted a rally in front of the government center. Congressman Alma Adams shared her disappointment for the decision.

“It was a mean spirited attempt to really discriminate against people and I’m just disappointed and disgusted with this general assembly,” Adams said.

Erica Lachowitz is a transgender woman who believes state lawmakers should stay out of Charlotte’s business.

“We’re people. We’re taxpayers. I’m a mom. Don’t treat me like I’m somebody that’s so foreign that you have to knock down legislation that give me basic protections,” Lachowitz said.

But business leaders and others have condemned the action because, they say, House Bill 2 promotes discrimination.

“It’s one thing to negate one piece of one bit of city code, but it’s a whole other to expand that to deny protections for LGBT people across the state,” said Matt Hirschy of Equality NC.

A local mom who was concerned about Charlotte’s ordinance bill being enacted on April 1 said she explained what the new state law means to her kids.

“We’re back to the way it was before. Girls and women go in the ladies’ room, boys and men go into the men’s room. It puts my heart at ease,” said Jeanette Wilson.

It started as an ordinance that impacted only Charlotteans, but House Bill 2 is now a law that affects all of North Carolina – and not just the LGBT community.

WBTV spoke with one of the bill’s sponsors and lawyers to see how it could affect workplace discrimination.

Before the new NC law, if you believed you were fired because of your race, religion or disability you could have gone straight to the Mecklenburg County courthouse and filed a lawsuit against your employer. After House Bill 2, that has changed.

“This would have devastating impact on the employment law protections to our citizens,” lawyer Josh Van Kampen said.

Van Kampen is a lawyer who represents clients who claim they’ve been fired because of their sex, race or religion.

“Two days ago that worker could file a lawsuit under wrongful discharge based on race. Today, as this bill is currently drafted, he would have no recourse in state court, even though the discrimination is blatant,” Van Kampen said.

Representative Dan Bishop, who is also a lawyer, sponsored the bill. He disagrees with that assessment.

“It is an exceedingly minor procedural difference,” Bishop said. Bishop said that while you lose the ability to go straight to the state courthouse, you don’t the lose the ability to file with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

“Under the existing law or the law that used to exist, you had three years to file your wrongful termination lawsuit. Under federal law you have 180 days only,” Van Kampen said.

Van Kampen is concerned clients could lose out based on time, and said that typically lawyers file first in state courts.

Bishop says now the feds will decide if someone can pursue a state or federal lawsuit. And, he argued, the new law doesn’t affect the outcome or the reward you could win in your case.

“You’re eliminating the state cause of action, but who cares if you get the exact same result?” Bishop said.

While lawyers disagree on the extent of the damage, the new law could affect anyone. A person loses the right to go straight to the state courthouse, they must file federally first with the EEOC or to the state’s Human Relations Commission in the Department of Administration.

The North Carolina Advocates for Justice (NCAJ) is an association of trial lawyers. The group has stated it will work to fix the new law.

“Cutting off state court access for workplace discrimination is bad for workers and NC brand,” NCAJ posted on Twitter.

The only way the new law could change is if Raleigh decides to take action.

Thursday evening, the McCrory campaign released the following statement to WBTV:

“Standing with North Carolina parents who are worried about the privacy and safety of their children will always be a top priority for the governor, no matter the spin by the media, pundits or politically correct crowd.”

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