North Carolina’s 2016 bathroom bill, HB2, is famous around the country. Most people know about it because it requires people to use the bathroom that matches with their gender on their birth certificates. Many people know that it cost the state millions in revenue because the NCAA and other events refused to come to North Carolina. We just watched the 2017 ACC Tournament take place in Brooklyn, New York, instead of Greensboro, North Carolina. Every NC college basketball fan felt the sting of that move.
But you may not know that the bathroom bill also took away the rights of North Carolina workers to sue because of certain kinds of discrimination they faced on their jobs. That part of HB 2 was not as well-known and put NC in that same place as Mississippi, down at the bottom of the heap. For a while North Carolina and Mississippi were the only states that did not allow their citizens to sue under state law when their employers violated some basic employment rules.
Before HB 2 was passed in March 2016, North Carolinians could go into state court because they were fired when they refused to lie in court for their employer. Or because they were discriminated against because of their race, gender, or a lot of other reasons.
Why taking away the state right to sue was important: After HB 2 was signed into law in March 2016, North Carolina citizens could only sue in federal court under federal law. But federal court is often not ideal.
- The cost of Federal court can be a lot more than state court.
- Federal court is often far away from where you live, because there aren’t that many federal courthouses.
- Federal court is not as accessible. You must go through a federal agency, the EEOC, to get the right to sue in many employment claims.
- Federal cases take a long time to get a case resolved.
Because HB 2 was so awful to North Carolina employees, another bill, HB 169, gave employees back the right to sue. But it only gave them one year to file a lawsuit, instead of three. That is a problem, because most of a time a year is not enough time for an employee to find a lawyer and try to get their case resolved.
On March 30, Gov. Roy Cooper signed a new bill into law repealing most of HB 2 and HB 169. Now North Carolina employees are back to square one. North Carolina employees now have the right to go into North Carolina courts, and they have up to three years to do so whenever their employer has violated North Carolina employment law.