Politicians lie sometimes. I don’t think that anyone will be surprised to learn that. But, the lies being told by the North Carolina legislature and government in connection with HB2 are truly astounding.
By way of background, North Carolina legislature House Bill 2, or HB2 for short, has mostly been described as an anti-LGBT bill. The press coverage about the bill has focused on its impact of banning cities (such as Charlotte) and municipalities from enacting legislation that would permit people to utilize the bathroom assigned to the gender they identify with. That has gained a lot of attention, spawned protests and counter-protests, and led to some businesses boycotting the state.
Whatever you think about that issue, however, you should be against politicians using a controversial issue to gut the state’s anti-discrimination laws and then lying to the public about it. And that’s exactly what this law does. Buried in the law is a provision that states: “This Article does not create, and shall not be construed to create or support, a statutory or common law private right of action, and no person may bring any civil action based on the public policy expressed herein.” Whatever does that bit of banal legalese mean?
It means that North Carolina citizens no longer have the right to sue their employers in state courts for discriminating against them on the basis of protected characteristics such as race, gender, age, religion or any other characteristic. Thus, while it is technically against North Carolina’s “public policy” to discriminate against people at work, the state won’t actually allow employees to sue if their employer breaks the law. Isn’t it nice to have rights that you can’t enforce?
Basically, the legislature slipped into the “bathroom bill” a provision that effectively licenses employers to discriminate against people. And then, when they got caught, the politicians claimed that the bill actually protects people’s rights. That is just not true. If the political class does not care about the victims of discrimination and harassment, they should just say that.
Fortunately, employees can still assert their rights in federal court under federal law. But this is a big step backward for North Carolina.