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Charlotte leaders, community discuss proposed non-discrimination ordinance

Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 10:39 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The city of Charlotte’s proposed non-discrimination ordinance is one step closer to being on the books.

On Monday, city leaders discussed the ordinance with a presentation from city attorney Patrick Baker. It would ban employers from discriminating against a person based on sexual orientation, gender identity and natural hairstyles among other factors.

There was some back-and-forth when it came to the discussion surrounding religious freedoms.

“When we aren’t clear in our ordinances, the only alternative is for them to have to go to court, and that’s costly,” said councilman Tariq Bokhari.

Councilman Ed Driggs also brought up the effect on small businesses if a person would falsely file a discrimination claim.

“We have to be mindful of unintended consequences when it comes to putting this burden on small employers,” he said.

The ordinance would apply to employers with 14 employees or less. In a straw vote, council members recommended having the city attorney expand natural hair discrimination to all employers -- no matter the size -- in the city of Charlotte.

Federal and state law already applies to those with 15 or more employees but does not explicitly cover natural hair.

Before the Aug. 9 meeting, an updated ordinance was drafted that is applicable to all employers in Charlotte.

Before Monday’s strategy session meeting, members of the LGBTQ community met outside the government center.

They called this proposed ordinance long overdue.

“It’s important for freedom. Honestly when you look at people wanting freedom for job choice and being comfortable employed and being fired who you are, rather veteran, transgender like myself,” said Jenny Gunn.

Quin Williams, the community outreach director for Charlotte Black Pride, also spoke about having protection for natural hair styles.

“It is important to me being a native Charlottean, being a Black cisgender, pansexual woman with natural hair. To be able to go into a workplace and not be told to tone it done because I’m too ethnic,” she said.

In terms of enforcement, an employee would file a complaint with the Conciliation Division of the Mecklenburg County Community Relations Committee. That committee would investigate, and if a violation is found, the complaint would then be referred to the city attorney.

The ordinance lists the factors, with definitions:

  • Gender identity and gender expression - Having or being perceived as having gender-related identity, expression, appearance, or behavior, whether or not that identity, expression, appearance, or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the sex assigned to that individual at birth.
  • Natural hairstyle - Any hair texture, color, type or style of wear historically associated with race or national origin.
  • Protected Class - A person’s race, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity, age, familial status, sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression), veteran status, pregnancy, natural hairstyle or disability.
  • Sexual orientation - A person’s actual or perceived emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to other people which includes, but is not limited to, heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality.

Public comment on the proposed ordinance and a vote is expected on Aug. 9.

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