Civic

Commissioner Unveils Non-Discrimination Law for County

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon

Buncombe County Commissioners are considering implementing a “non-discrimination” ordinance for the county. The ordinance would concern those who are not in line with progressive thinking about sexual orientation.

Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara’s proposed non-discrimination ordinance (use QR code on this page) opens with, “This Board has determined that it is in the best interest of the citizens and residents of Buncombe County to enact protections against discrimination that reflect the community’s shared values of equality, inclusion, and fair access, and to preserve the health, safety, and welfare of people without regard to certain actual or perceived status or characteristics.”

The ordinance includes several discrimination definitions including employer, gender identity or expression, persons and public accommodations. 

Next, it states, “It shall be unlawful for any employer because of the race, natural hair or hairstyles, ethnicity, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin or ancestry, marital or familial status, pregnancy, veteran status, religious belief or non-belief, age, or disability of any person to refuse to hire or otherwise discriminate against that person with respect to hire, tenure, conditions, or privileges of employment, or any matter directly or indirectly related to employment.” 

Public Accommodations

Regarding public accommodations, the proposal says employers cannot “refuse to hire or otherwise discriminate against that person with respect to hire, tenure, conditions, or privileges of employment, or any matter directly or indirectly related to employment.” 

The Tribune could not find anything in the ordinance related to bathroom access or to changing facilities. It is unclear if that is implied in the ordinance or not.

How will it be enforced?

According to the draft, enforcement will be via “Filing of complaint and investigation; Reasonable cause and conciliation efforts; Appeals. The Board, in consultation with staff, shall develop a comprehensive process for receiving, investigating, and resolving complaints pertaining to alleged violations of this Ordinance. This process will include efforts at conciliation between the parties. Where an investigation reveals a violation of this Ordinance and conciliation fails, then civil penalties may be imposed upon the offending party as outlined below. This process will be in effect no later than July 1, 2021. The Board, in conjunction with staff, will undertake educational efforts to inform Buncombe County in general and impacted communities within the county in particular about this ordinance as well as the process for enforcing it.”

Penalties for violations

The proposal says, “In addition to, or in lieu of, the other remedies set forth in this chapter, the county manager, or their designee, may issue a citation setting forth a civil penalty of $100. In the case of a continuing violation, each 24-hour period in which the violation continues to exist shall constitute a separate violation. The citation shall be served upon the person violating any of the requirements of this Section by hand delivery or certified mail or by any other means made in accordance with the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure. In the event the violator does not pay the penalty within 30 days of service of the citation, the civil penalty shall be collected by the county in a civil action in the nature of debt…”

Exemptions

The ordinance lists several exemptions for “an employer to employ, admit, classify, or refer any individual on the basis of religion, sex, national origin, age, familial status, or veteran status, in those certain instances where religion, sex, national origin, age, familial status, or veteran status is a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation of that particular business or enterprise.” It also has similar exemptions for schools, colleges, universities, or other educational institutions, or institutions.

Editor’s note: See commentary page 2 and related story page along with QR code link to the Commissioner’s ordinance PDF.

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