The Status of Workplace State Law Discrimination Claims in North Carolina

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On March 23, 2016, in House Bill 2 (HB2), notoriously known as the “Bathroom Bill,” the North Carolina General Assembly set out that the North Carolina Employment Practices Act (NCEEPA) (N.C.G.S. Chapter 143) did not provide a cause of action for wrongful termination based on discrimination. The NCEEPA covers employers with 15 or more employees and provided a discrimination cause of action against employers who discriminated on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex or handicap in employment. The statute of limitations was three (3) years in state court.

This change in North Carolina law did not affect employee rights under federal law. If employees wish to file a federal claim, the procedure is entirely different and the statute of limitations is much shorter–180 days to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and then 90 days to file a lawsuit in federal court, after the EEOC concludes its investigation and issues its determination.

On July 18, 2016, the General Assembly restored the right of employees under the NCEEPA to bring wrongful discharge claims for employment discrimination in state court, but shortened the statute of limitations to one (1) year. The NCEEPA clearly does not prohibit employment discrimination against LBGT persons.

The text of the revised NCEEPA sets out: “It is the public policy of this State to protect and safeguard the right and opportunity of all persons to seek, obtain and hold employment without discrimination or abridgement on account of race, religion, color, national origin, age, biological sex or handicap by employers which regularly employ 15 or more employees.”

Employment discrimination against LBGT persons still violates federal law, and North Carolina employers must comply with both federal and state laws in terms and conditions of employment.

For help with employment law questions or other civil litigation issues, call Tracy Stroud, Attorney with Colombo Kitchin Attorneys in Greenville, NC, at 252-321-2020.