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The North Carolina State Legislature is making a mess of things, taking on prevailing wages and keeping the minimum wage at a poverty level

Brian Young's picture
Mar 28, 2016

During the months of March and April, a lot of state legislatures make headlines as they pass their budgets.  Often times, they take up controversial bills, such as Right to Work in Missouri or a bill to make it harder for teachers to keep their union in Kansas.  One such bill was taken up and passed in North Carolina. 

While the bill in North Carolina got a lot of attention for its section banning local protections for the LGBT community, it also took direct aim at workers.  Some of the provisions including not allowing cities or municipalities to raise their own minimum wage, takes away discrimination protections against Veterans and does not allow anyone to sue for employment discrimination in state court.  Currently the minimum wage in North Carolina is a low $7.25, the same as the federal minimum wage. 

Perhaps one of the most overlooked parts of the law, the ability for employees to sue their employer for discrimination in state courts, may be the most important part of the law.  This will force employees to sue in a regional court instead of one in their home county.  In federal court, the costs are higher and the statute of limitations is shorter and there are far less courts.  In North Carolina, there are only 6 federal courts compared to 100 county courts. 

Another sister bill that was passed at the same time, the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act which took further aim at working people.  The bill would supersede any local laws that set guidelines on how much contractors must pay their employees to get the contract, also known as prevailing wage ordinances.  In a statement, the North Carolina AFL-CIO said “the General Assembly is taking away the ability of any local jurisdiction to require employers — even those with whom they are contracting — to provide higher wages, safer workplaces, more generous benefits, like paid leave, or any other safeguards for workers above and beyond the low bar the legislature itself deems appropriate.

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