Just before closing this year’s legislative session, the North Carolina General Assembly agreed to changes to its controversial HB2 that will reinstitute the ability of employees who believe they have suffered workplace discrimination to seek legal relief under state law. Much of the publicity surrounding HB2 focused on its public restroom use restrictions, but the removal of state court employment discrimination lawsuits had a considerably greater impact on North Carolina employers.
Prior to HB2, employees who believed that they had been discriminated, harassed or retaliated against could file suit in state court within three years for wrongful discharge. These claims did not require the administrative EEOC filing required for such lawsuits under federal civil rights laws. HB2 removed this cause of action, making North Carolina the only state in the U.S. other than Mississippi to lack any state cause of action for workplace discrimination on the basis of race, gender, age, disability, religion and other protected classifications.
The new legislation reinstates the prior legal basis for state law discrimination claims, but reduces the statute of limitations for filing such suits from three years to one year. While still double the time of time period for filing an EEOC charge, this limitations period may result in claims being time barred due to the potential plaintiff’s delay in pursuing litigation.
The General Assembly adjourned without making other changes to HB2, including the public restroom provisions, and limitations on local governments’ ability to adopt separate employment discrimination or wage ordinances.