CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Aug. 10, 2021) – The Charlotte City Council voted unanimously Monday to amend City of Charlotte ordinances to include familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, veteran status, pregnancy and natural hairstyle as classes protected against discrimination.
The nondiscrimination ordinance updates apply to the city code governing public accommodations, passenger vehicles for hire and procurement. They will take effect on Oct. 1.
City Council members also added employment protections for all new and existing protected classes. The city's current protected classes are race, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity, age and disability. The employment protections will take effect on Jan. 1, 2022, and apply to all employers in Charlotte.
"Being mayor is a great honor, but I certainly wish I were a council member so I may raise my hand, 'yes'. This would have been my third 'yes' vote for a nondiscrimination ordinance," said Mayor Vi Lyles moments before the council voted. "This council has worked together on so many things and we have this moment where we actually come together and take every part of what our community and residents have asked, and we put it in a statement of values, and a statement of action that's implementable and accountable."
New Employment Protections
Under the new employment protections, it is unlawful for an employer to fail or refuse to hire a person, or otherwise discriminate against them in any employment matter, because of their race, color, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity, age, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, veteran status, pregnancy, natural hairstyle or disability.
The ordinance applies to employers of all sizes in the city of Charlotte. Existing state and federal laws prohibit discrimination against protected classes by employers with 15 or more employees. However, adding ordinance protections applicable to all employers:
- Allows the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee (CRC) to review a complaint and determine if it should be forwarded to the state or federal level.
- Ensures options exist at the local level if federal or state agencies do not take up a complaint against an employer with at least 15 employees.
- Allows the CRC's conciliation division to address complaints against employers with fewer than 15 employees.
Discrimination Complaint Process
The conciliation division receives complaints of discrimination and coordinates a conciliation process to resolve issues that fall under the city's nondiscrimination ordinance.
The CRC can take up complaints filed within 180 days of an incident. After receiving a complaint, an investigator with the CRC develops and conducts an investigation and makes a finding – typically within 100 business days of an investigation plan being developed. The finding is then submitted to the CRC director for review.
If the director determines there is cause to believe a violation of the nondiscrimination ordinance has occurred, the conciliation division will create a plan to have the alleged discrimination voluntary eliminated. If there is reasonable cause to believe discrimination persists, the complaint is referred to the city attorney for appropriate action.
The city's Budget and Effectiveness Committee is also working to assess options to issue fines and penalties up to $500 for violators of nondiscrimination policies in addition to existing enforcement options.
- Amendments to the ordinance do not address bathroom accommodations, which are regulated by the North Carolina legislature.
- A religious organization's requirement that employees adhere to its tenets as a condition of employment is not a discriminatory practice covered by the city ordinance.
- An employee may express their sincerely held religious commitments in the workplace in a reasonable, nondisruptive and nonharassing way, unless the expression is in direct conflict with the essential business-related interests or the needs of the employer.