Viewpoint

A smart reset for workplace law

From Bruce Clarke of Raleigh, a former employment law litigator who now is president and CEO of Capital Associated Industries, a nonprofit employers association:

Obscured in the “Bathroom Bill” controversy is a technical correction bringing clarity to a confusing area of workplace law. This correction is not related to bathroom use.

Back in 1977, our state rightly rejected attempts to duplicate the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. We chose to enact a law affirming the intent of federal law, but we declined to establish a state level “mini-EEOC” with our own staffs, and unique set of remedies.

It was the right position then and now. EEOC handles nearly 5,000 discrimination claims in four local offices in our state each year. Unfortunately, our Court of Appeals decided years ago our simple statutory statement of support could now create a state court “public policy wrongful discharge” lawsuit with an end-run around the EEOC.

Suddenly, someone unhappy with the EEOC process, or who chose never to try the process, could file a lawsuit years later. The witnesses are gone, the records may be gone, and our state court system is not equipped to handle these matters.

This portion of House Bill 2 took our law back to its original intent of supporting civil rights in the workplace without setting up a duplicative or conflicting court process. Employers and employees are best served by timely and expert resolution of these claims.

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