The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday January 26th

Employee Forum discusses effects of House Bill 2

Joel Curran, the Vice Chancellor of Communications and Public Affairs, gave a special presentation at the Employee Forum at the Sonja H. Stone Center on Wednesday.
Buy Photos Joel Curran, the Vice Chancellor of Communications and Public Affairs, gave a special presentation at the Employee Forum at the Sonja H. Stone Center on Wednesday.

The forum held an open session to discuss how House Bill 2 will affect University employees.

“At this point, it is our guidance that our non-discrimination policy, which we worked so long to have and we feel necessary for the competitive workforce and the environment we strive to have, will stand,” Washington said.

Washington said a statement will be sent out about administrators’ decision to uphold the non-discrimination policy.

“One of the things we’re going to be looking at is trying to work with facility services to do an audit to have a complete listing of where we currently have gender-nonspecific bathrooms,” she said.

David Parker, the interim general counsel for the University, said there are three parts to the bill, but only the first part applies to UNC.

The first section, which regulates bathroom use based on biological sex, specifically names the UNC system. The other two parts pertain to systems of government and therefore do not pertain to the University, Parker said.

“The University is not a unit of local government or a political subdivision of the state, and we don’t obviously enact regulations that affect minimum wages and benefits of other employees.”

Members of the forum raised issues they were worried about or had heard from other employees concerning the bill.

“There are people being targeted, and they’re already overworked, and they’re already trying to hang everything together as best they can. Now they’re hearing open, hostile conversations in front of them,” said Shayna Hill, forum treasurer.

Hill said people have told her they feel demoralized and demotivated because of open discussions against their identity.

“How can we protect our vital human resources?” she said.

Terri Phoenix, director of the UNC LGBTQ Center, told the forum about the list of gender-nonspecific bathrooms on the LGBTQ Center’s website.

“Transgender individuals in particular, and gender non-conforming individuals have been very anxious about what bathroom to use, not because they are confused about what bathroom they need, but because they worry about people confronting them for being ‘in the wrong bathroom,’” Phoenix said.

Elizabeth Haddix, a member of the Center for Civil Rights in the UNC School of Law, said the center doesn’t support the bill, and they are working against it.

“It is an embarrassment, frankly, to have it be a reality and be discussing issues like this at this stage in our development as a state,” she said.

Questions were raised in the forum about how the Department of Public Safety will respond to requests for enforcement of the bill and if the lack of gender-nonspecific bathrooms in some buildings affects people’s rights as employees.

Many questions were not met with answers because the Office of University Counsel and the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office are still considering the full impact of the bill and what the University can do for employees.

In addition to the open discussion, two resolutions were unanimously passed — a resolution to create a new employee award and a resolution to continue to support sexual assault awareness and prevention.

university@dailytarheel.com



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