More than two thirds of North Carolina’s small business owners think laws should prevent discrimination against gay or transgender employees, according to a recently-released report by the DC-based think tank, Small Business Majority. This spring, representatives from SBM polled hundreds of business owners across the state, asking if their businesses believed employees should receive different treatment based on their gender identity or sexual orientation. In the majority of cases, employers not only currently protected their LGBT employees, they believed state and federal law should as well.
The study, which polled business owners across a wide spectrum of political ideologies, showed that 74% of employers believe discrimination against LGBT employees is currently illegal. Nearly 70% said they already offered—or were willing to offer—family benefits such as health insurance to employees’ same-sex spouses.
State and federal governments have been reluctant to pass laws preventing employment-based LGBT discrimination, but according to this study, more than 60% of North Carolina businesses think they would attract a higher caliber of employee and would be more profitable were the state to pass non-discrimination legislation.
“These results reveal an important point: once business owners understand there are no current protections for gay and transgender workers, there is strong support for updating existing laws to prohibit this type of discrimination in the workplace,” said Stuart Campbell, head of Equality NC, in response to the SBM study.
A bill to end sexuality and gender-identity-based discrimination is currently being weighed by the United States Senate. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) recently passed through a Senate committee and may be heard by the full Senate before the end of the year. North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan is a co-sponsor of the bill who says the bill will allow all employees equal access to the same rights. North Carolina’s other Senator, Richard Burr, opposes the bill, saying it could impinge upon employers’ religious rights.
More than 21 states have laws to protect LGBT employees, but North Carolina is not among them. Currently gay and transgendered employees can be fired without cause, and have no recourse against discrimination. This spring legislators introduced a pair of non-discrimination bills in the state House and Senate. After being referred to rules committees in late March and early April, these bills have seen no movement.