The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday September 23rd

Wake County expands protection to LGBT workers

A 2014 study by the Williams Institute at UCLA Law found that approximately 159,000 workers in North Carolina identify as LGBT.

The study also found that 71 percent of the public supports LGBT workplace protections while 77 percent of transgender workers in North Carolina reported workplace discrimination.

Susanna Birdsong, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, said she hopes the state will start to see momentum in local governments to make non-discrimination policies that include LGBT employees widespread.

“Hopefully we will see the General Assembly fall in line with majority opinion in the state and adapt similar protections state-level in the near future, but in the meantime we will continue to apply pressure locally,” she said.

Matt Calabria, a Wake County commissioner, spoke about the importance of updating their policy, which he said was woefully out of date.

“The bottom line is that no one should be passed over for a job or a promotion or feel unsafe or insecure in their workplace because of who they are,” he said.

As of now, Buncombe, Durham, Mecklenberg and Wake counties and the cities of Asheville, Boone, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Charlotte, High Point and Raleigh have such non-discrimination policies in place, according to Birdsong.

According to county documents, Orange County has included sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policy since at least 2011, but the county has yet to pass an official ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or expression. This causes Orange County to be excluded from lists of counties with non-discrimination policies.

Travis Myren, deputy Orange County manager, said the policy on the county’s website is what matters. The policy he’s referencing does include gender identity and expression.

“The formal ordinance document has not yet been updated, but we are in the process of getting those additional categories included,” he said.

Earl McKee, chairperson of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, said he was concerned Orange County’s inclusive policies have gone unmentioned.

“Orange County, not just the commissioners but the citizens of Orange County, are very concerned that we treat everybody in a fair and equitable way,” he said.

Birdsong said it is important to pass laws that protect LGBT employees from discrimination.

“It promotes fairness and equality for all workers in the workplace and makes sure people aren’t discriminated against for who they love or who they are, and instead allows them to just do their job and go home at the end of the day without worrying about that,” she said.


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