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The North Carolina General Assembly (House and Senate) voted recently to override Governor Pat McCrory's veto of House Bill 405, AN ACT TO PROTECT OWNERS FROM DAMAGES RESULTING FROM INDIVIDUALS ACTING IN EXCESS OF THE SCOPE OF PERMISSIBLE ACCESS AND CONDUCT GRANTED TO THEM. The new law goes into effect January 1, 2016.
This legislation gives businesses the “green light” to sue employees who expose trade secrets or take pictures of their workplaces. Opponents of the bill, including animal rights activists, claim that the bill they call the “Ag-Gag Bill” is aimed at preventing undercover investigations that have exposed incidences of animal cruelty occurring in the agri-business. Critics of the bill, including the Governor, fear that it does not protect employees who report illegal activities, discouraging employees from “whistle blowing.”
The bill does, however, include language protecting employees from exercising their “whistle blower” rights such as the following:
“Nothing in this section shall be construed to diminish the protections provided to employees under Article 21 of Chapter 95 or Article 14 of Chapter 126 of the General Statutes, nor may any party who is covered by these Articles be liable under this section.”
The two chapters referenced above are the” Retaliation Discrimination Act (Article 21 of Chapter 95)” and the law protecting whistle blower rights of state employees, “Protection For Reporting Improper Government Activities (Article 14 of Chapter 126)."
There has been discussion among legislators of possibly tweaking the legislation to clear up some issues such as guidance to honest employees who discover illegal activities.
As stated, many opponents of the bill fear it is aimed at preventing undercover investigations. I am reminded of a similar "undercover investigation" that was actually a hatchet job on Food Lion by the UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) and ABC (American Broadcasting Company). To refresh your memory, this is where ABC producers went undercover, falsified their employment applications with assistance from the UFCW, actually tainted meat and then reported on the network’s Prime Time Live television magazine that Food Line was selling tainted meat. This was the early 90's when the UFCW was extremely frustrated because it had been unsuccessful in organizing Food Lion employees. Food Lion, at the time, was the fasted growing grocery store chain in the country. Click here to read further about this case.
To read House Bill 405, go to http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2015/Bills/House/PDF/H405v5.pdf. If you have any questions please give me a call at (919) 878-9222.
The Employers Coalition of North Carolina (ECNC) was created to give the business community a more focused avenue of public policy input concerning day to day employer-employee workplace issues. ECNC is a partnership of three North Carolina employers’ associations: CAI (Capital Associated Industries), TEA (The Employers Association) and WCI (Western Carolina Industries) and their 2500 members. To follow ECNC activities, join our group here: The specified item was not found..