Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday signed into law legislation restoring employees’ right to claim in state court that they were fired for discriminatory reasons. Lawmakers say they unintentionally blocked that recourse when they passed a law in March precluding broad lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender protections.
“Today, we have restored the right to sue for discrimination in state courts, which I requested before this year’s legislative session began,” McCrory said in a statement his office released. “…The issue of gender identity and expression in regards to access to bathrooms, locker rooms and changing facilities is a national issue that will be settled in the courts, in response to North Carolina and 21 other states challenging the federal overreach by the Obama administration.”
The modification, written into House Bill 169, restores the right to file discrimination lawsuits in state court — within one year of the alleged offense, which is shorter than the previous three-year limit but twice as long as the limit in federal court. Senate leader Phil Berger’s office said at the time the bill was passed – on the final night of this year’s session – that the one-year limit is similar to other statutes of limitation on state court claims.
The legislature and governor left intact the most controversial provisions of House Bill 2, including preventing cities and counties from imposing LGBT protections broader than state law. HB2 also requires transgender people in government facilities to use bathrooms matching the gender on their birth certificates rather than the gender they identify with.
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LGBT activists and most Democratic legislators called for an outright repeal of HB2, which has triggered tens of millions of dollars in immediate and potential lost revenue, canceled performances and widespread criticism. Pro-HB2 lawmakers said they were trying to ensure women and children are safe in public restrooms.
In two separate lawsuits, six North Carolina residents and the U.S. Department of Justice have sued to halt HB2. A federal judge will hear arguments next month on whether to block provisions of the bill while the lawsuits are pending.
The out-of-state advocacy group Small Business Majority issued a statement saying HB2 remains bad for business.
“This new version of HB2 will continue to drive away North Carolina’s paying customers and talented employees at the expense of small businesses,” spokesman Chris Armstrong said in a statement. “Entrepreneurs need a full repeal of HB2 — they can’t afford to wait out patchwork fixes.”
Washington-based Human Rights Campaign official JoDee Winterhof also released a statement: “No one is applauding Governor McCrory for undoing a small part of his massive error in judgment — especially not so long as the most vile anti-LGBTQ law in the country remains on the books