Charlotte business groups cooperate on protections for LGBT workers

The Charlotte Business Guild unveiled a three-part plan Tuesday night to work with mainstream business organizations to improve workplace protections for employees who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Elements of the plan include:

Participants in the plan, which was unveiled Tuesday, include the Charlotte Chamber, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, Equality NC and the Human Rights Campaign.

North Carolina is one of about 30 states where LGBT employees do not have job protections under state law. There also is no federal law that prohibits firing someone for being gay, although the Obama administration has extended protections to people who work for the federal government.

Guild President Chad Sevearance said his organization’s push for workplace equality is a natural next step after last year’s legalization of same-sex marriage in the state.

But the organization will not be taking an adversarial approach to businesses that discriminate, he added, nor will it “challenge people’s religious beliefs.” Instead, the intent is to create incentive by showing the profits to be made by pursuing LGBT dollars.

A published report about LGBT supportive businesses in the community will be released in May, based on responses to an online survey known as the Charlotte Area Business Equality Index.

“This is not about bashing. It’s our job to change minds and to show them the buying power of LGBT dollars,” said Sevearance. “At the end of the day, dollars aren’t gay or straight. They’re green and businesses want to make money.”

The city of Charlotte is considering expanding its ordinances to prohibit discrimination in places of public accommodation against people based on their sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity.

The proposed changes would give lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents some recourse when they feel discriminated against, but it would not give them protection in employment issues.

Public Policy Polling published a report noting 73 percent of North Carolinians believe employers should not be able to discriminate based on sexual orientation. Sixteen percent were in favor of such discrimination, polls showed.

Still, Sevearance said legal protections at the state level will be an uphill battle because the legislature is controlled by Republicans and gay rights often are politicized as a “Democrat” issue.