Woman in age discrimination lawsuit says HB2 causing more trouble

Woman in age discrimination lawsuit says HB2 causing more trouble

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A Charlotte woman says she is a victim of House Bill 2, and that the bathroom portion of the bill has nothing to do with how the new law is making her life more difficult.

Maryanne White, who is 64 years old, said she was fired from her job with no warning after 28 years of service. She did not want to name her former employer, but she believes the firing had to do with her age and being so close to retiring and receiving retirement benefits.

She said HB2 has changed the path she was going to take to seek justice. HB2 eliminates her ability to file a lawsuit in state court, and she's concerned it will affect the outcome of her case.

White says she loved her career as a nurse specialist and was upset when it was ended in 2015.

"Gosh, the people that you can touch... families, children with type one diabetes... yeah, I miss it," White said.

White said doctors spoke on her behalf, but Human Resources said there was no appeal process.

"It's been a whole different path for me that I never thought in my life that I would be on," White said.

After HB2 became law, that path changed more.

"So instead of being able to file in state, which is an easier - even though the road may not be easy - the process is easier, not as costly. And now this, or anyone like me, would have to go to federal court," White said.

A couple of weeks ago Representative Dan Bishop said people didn't lose rights.

"Eliminating the state cause of action, but who cares if you get exactly the same result?" Bishop said.

However, White's lawyer Josh Van Kampen said the result isn't the same.

"In Maryanne's case her employer, because of House Bill 2's changes, really stands to get off very cheaply even if we're able to prove that they violated the Federal Age Act," Van Kampen said. "Every day that we're not filing our state court lawsuit and it sits at the EEOC is a victory for the company because justice delayed is justice denied."

LINK: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's employment discrimination results

Van Kampen said that now White can't get more than two times her back pay.

"Where as before under North Carolina law, the jury would have the option to award those damages it deemed appropriate. That is not even an option under federal law," Van Kempen said. "In a typical employment case that goes to trial where the plaintiff wins, you almost always see an emotional distress order. Those are common when the plaintiff prevails."

Other employment lawyers say they didn't usually use the state system when it came to these types of cases.

Bishop said he did not want to comment further on HB2, but recommended other employment lawyers weigh in on the difference between state and federal courts in employment discrimination discharge cases. Clark Tew is a lawyer practicing in Mooresville.

"I don't have any cases that I was planning to file in state court for wrongful determination," said Tew. "And I think that a tool has been taken out of employee's toolboxes by HB2, but I think that the people who oppose HB2 should really look at the issue of employee protection, given that even before HB2 the employee protections that were out there really weren't that strong."

Lawyers agree that previously under the state system a case could get to a jury faster than in the federal system.

White says she is strong and patient.

"I'm not sure why life should have so many bumps in the road for people - probably much worse off than I am - who now have this additional bump to go through, which also has some extra expense," White said. "I'm never going to lose because I stood up for what I think is right. So I'm never going to feel like I lost."

White wonders if the governor and lawmakers truly understood the affects of the law. She said she plans to write Governor McCrory a letter to share her story.

"I thought of writing Governor McCrory asking him if I could meet with him," White said. "Did they really know what was going to come out?"

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