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July 19 — North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed into law July 18 an employment discrimination measure that reverses part of a controversial bill on sexual orientation that led to a public outcry and a Justice Department lawsuit.
Under H.B. 169, workers again have the right to sue in state court over wrongful discharge based on discrimination. Despite calls to fully repeal the original bill ( H.B. 2), passed in March, lawmakers have left intact the portion that requires people in public buildings to use restrooms associated with their gender at birth.
The section of H.B. 2 that prohibits cities and counties from enacting protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people beyond what is offered by the state was also left in place.
North Carolina has been the target of economic boycotts and lawsuits over H.B. 2, which critics say promotes discrimination against LGBT people.
A lawsuit filed by the federal government over that law's requirement that public agencies deny transgender people access to multiple-occupancy bathrooms and changing facilities consistent with their gender identity is pending ( United States v. North Carolina, M.D.N.C., No. 1:16-cv-00425, complaint filed 5/9/16 ).
Dozens of companies, including Bloomberg BNA parent Bloomberg LP, have filed legal briefs in support of the Department of Justice's lawsuit.
The state legislature has adjourned for the year.
H.B. 169 restores employees' right to sue in North Carolina courts retroactive to March 23, the date H.B. 2 took effect. However, the new law also reduces the statute of limitations on such wrongful discharge claims to one year, from three.
Attorneys told Bloomberg BNA after the bill passed the legislature that the reduced statute of limitations for discrimination claims differed from that for claims based on other areas of public policy and could create certain logistical complications.
For example, discrimination charges are often filed first with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said Kevin Murphy, an employment attorney at Van Kampen Law in Charlotte, N.C. EEOC investigations often take longer than a year, which could force plaintiffs to file their state lawsuits without the benefit of commission findings, he said.
—With assistance from Chris Marr.
To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew M. Ballard in Raleigh, N.C., at email@example.com
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Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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