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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Misrepresenting the Employment Law Impact of HB 2

One of the most disappointing and infuriating things about the HB2 saga in North Carolina has been the persistent misrepresentation of its impact by Gov. McCrory and its supporters in the General Assembly.  As an employment and civil procedure scholar (and former long time litigator), I take particular umbrage at the gross misrepresentations related to the elimination of the state law claim for employment discrimination (discussed in my last post, here). 

The misrepresentations started in the General Assembly where the Republican sponsors repeatedly asserted that nothing in HB2 would take away existing rights.  Even when directly questioned about the elimination of the state law wrongful discharge claim for employment discrimination, Republican legislators responded that it would have no effect.  [I am basing the foregoing primarily on tweets from reporters on the scene as I was not in Raleigh for the “debate.”] 

The misrepresentations continued when Gov. McCrory issued his statement announcing he had signed HB2 into law.  In that statement, he stated “[a]lthough other items included in this bill should have waited until regular session, this bill does not change existing rights under state or federal law.”  (emphasis added).  Gov. McCrory doubled down on this misrepresentation in a document entitled “Myths vs Facts: What New York Times, Huffington Post and other media outlets aren't saying about common-sense privacy law” (here), which was posted on his official website on Friday, March 25.  In this document, question #2 is “Does this bill take away existing protections for individuals in North Carolina?”  Gov. McCrory’s answer: “No.” 

Put simply, McCrory’s statements are clearly and undeniably false. 

However, the most persistent voice in misrepresenting the impact of this provision of HB 2 has been (perhaps not surprisingly) HB 2’s author and sponsor, Rep. Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg).  Rep. Bishop is an attorney.  When pressed by a reporter on whether HB2 eliminated the longstanding state law claim for wrongful discharge, Rep. Bishop acknowledged that it likely did, but said “who cares” because you could get the same remedies under federal law.  In a separate interview, Rep. Bishop said the elimination of the state law claim “is an exceedingly minor procedural difference."  

Rep. Bishop graduated from UNC-CH law with high honors, so I will assume he does actually understand the differences between (1) substantive and procedural law; and (2) federal and state employment discrimination law.  But assuming he understands the distinctions, one must conclude that he is intentionally misrepresenting the impact. 

Whether the elimination of a state law claim is “substantive” or “an exceedingly minor procedural difference” is beyond rational debate.  Having 28 days to respond to a motion instead of 30 days is an exceedingly minor procedural difference.  Eliminating a state law claim that has existed for 34 years, is indisputably substantive and significant. 

I’ll take up the substantive differences between federal employment discrimination claims under Title VII (or the ADEA) versus North Carolina’s now defunct claim for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy premised on EEPA in my next post.

Posted by Brian Clarke on March 29, 2016 at 01:08 PM in Civil Procedure, Current Affairs, Employment and Labor Law, Gender, Law and Politics, Torts, Workplace Law | Permalink

Comments

The statements that you quote are not "clearly and undeniably false." The state-law substantive "rights" and "protections" remain, even if there are now fewer procedural remedies for violations of those rights and protections. It is neither clear nor indisputable that procedural remedies must be characterized as rights or protections.

Posted by: Hash | Mar 29, 2016 10:41:51 PM

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