Wake County, Raleigh leaders to discuss anti-discrimination policies this week

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The Wake County Board of Commissioners and Raleigh City Council are set to discuss anti-discrimination policies this week.

Wake County Board of Commissioners Chair Matt Calabria said the policy would prohibit discrimination in the workplace and public accommodations based on race, gender, sexual orientation and other identities.

“It’s a very broad-based set of protections to make sure that people of all kinds feel safe in Wake County,” Calabria said.

Calabria said Wake County does not have its own anti-discrimination policy. He said the federal government has anti-discrimination rules that apply to businesses over a certain size, but those don’t always apply to smaller businesses.

“There’s not much in the way of recourse for someone who’s been discriminated against, and so this for the first time on the local level will create some recourse for people who’ve been discriminated against,” he said.

For example, he said under the ordinance a judge could order someone not be fired based on race. He said there’s no opportunity for monetary lawsuits under the ordinance.

As more large companies come to the area, Calabria said it’s important for them to recruit talent, and protections like this could help.

“If they have to deal with headwinds and questions about whether this is going to be a tolerant community, that’s not going to go well for them, and they know that,” Calabria said.

Allison Scott is the director of Impact and Innovation for Campaign for Southern Equality. Scott said one of the most common forms of discrimination the group hears about is when an employee faces unjust treatment for coming out in their workplace.

Scott said the ordinance being discussed is a way to hold employers accountable.

“Really what it does is it creates a culture because a lot of cities will say they’re open and welcoming, but what this does is it codifies that they are walking the talk,” Scott said.

HB 142 had provisions that prevented municipalities from passing anti-discrimination laws. When it expired, it opened the door for municipalities to pass anti-discrimination laws.

Charlotte, Durham, and towns in Orange County are among the municipalities that have adopted similar protections.

The Wake County Board of Commissioners is discussing the ordinance Monday. Calabria said they could move forward with the vote at next week’s meeting, and if it passes it wouldn’t go into effect until February.

Raleigh City Council is set to discuss the policy at its meeting Tuesday.

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