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A new North Carolina law has gained nationwide and even worldwide media attention, along with widespread condemnation as being highly discriminatory to gay and transgender people. HB2 was passed by an overwhelming majority in both houses of the state legislature late last month, with unanimous support from Republican lawmakers. It was quickly signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory.

The "Charlotte Bathroom Bill" Will Have Far-Reaching Impact

The Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, also known as the "Charlotte bathroom bill," originated as a means to reverse an ordinance in that city that allowed transgender people to use public restrooms that conformed to their gender identity whether they had surgically changed their gender or not. It did this by nullifying all local ordinances that provided expanded lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights and protections beyond those provided under state law.

LGBT people will remain a non-protected class in North Carolina under the new law. Now, however, cities and counties will no longer be allowed to make them a protected class either. There is still no federal law that protects LGBT workers from employment discrimination.

The Law Reaches Beyond the LGBT Community

Most of the news coverage has focused on the law's impact on LGBT North Carolinians. However, it will affect many of the state's residents and employees beyond the LGBT community. The new law makes it more difficult to pursue discrimination suits even for those with protected characteristics (such as race, religion, handicap, age and biological gender) in state courts. It also prohibits localities from setting their own minimum wage.

The governor's office points out that the bill does not prevent private businesses and universities from establishing or maintaining protections for LGBT employees, students and customers. However, some of the nation's largest companies with a significant number of employees based in North Carolina have expressed concern over the law. It could well impact these employees and their families.

Even employees who work for companies with protections for LGBT workers may have family members who work for private or public entities without such LGBT-friendly policies. The full impact on people's lives remains to be seen. Employment lawyers can provide advice to those who feel that impact in their workplace.