Human Rights Should Be Exercised without Discrimination
In August 2021, the City of Charlotte amended its Human Relations Ordinance to include familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, veteran status, pregnancy, and natural hairstyle as classes protected against discrimination for the city code governing public accommodations, passenger vehicles for hire and procurement. Additionally, the ordinance now provides Employment Protections for all new and existing protected classes.
The Conciliation Division of the Community Relations Committee shall receive all complaints of violation for Public Accommodation and Employment Protections. Passenger Vehicle for Hire violations will be sent to the PVH Board to process.
Public Accommodations (Charlotte City Code, Chapter 12, Article III, Section 12)
CRC has administered the City’s Public Accommodations Ordinance since 1968. The ordinance prohibits discrimination in access to public places because of:
Effective October 1, 2021, the ordinance expanded to include the additional protected classes. It shall be unlawful to deny any person the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of a place of public accommodation because of a Protected Class. This also includes making, printing, circulating, posting, mailing or otherwise cause to be published a statement, advertisement, or sign which indicates that the full and equal enjoyment of the items mentioned in the previous statement.
Exemptions to the Public Accommodations Ordinance
To refuse, withhold or deny a person's patronage of or presence does not apply to a private club or other establishment not, in fact, open to the public.
Amendments to the ordinance do not address bathroom accommodations, which are regulated by the North Carolina legislature.
Employment Protections (Charlotte City Code, Chapter 12, Article IV, Section 12)
Effective January 1, 2022, under the new employment protections, it is unlawful for an employer to fail or refuse to hire a person, or otherwise discriminate against them in any employment matter, because of their race, color, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity, age, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, veteran status, pregnancy, natural hairstyle or disability.
The ordinance applies to employers of all sizes in the city of Charlotte.
Exemptions to the Employment Protections
A religious organization's requirement that employees adhere to its tenets as a condition of employment is not a discriminatory practice covered by the city ordinance.
An employee may express their sincerely held religious commitments in the workplace in a reasonable, nondisruptive and non-harassing way, unless the expression is in direct conflict with the essential business-related interests or the needs of the employer.
Passenger Vehicle for Hire (Charlotte City Code, Chapter 22, Article II, Section 5)
Effective October 1, 2021, Passenger Vehicles for Hire complaints will be received by the Community Relations Committee and provided to the PVH Board to handle.
Please visit Passenger Vehicles for Hire. for more information.
- When did public accommodations & employment protections in the NDO go into effect?
Protections from discrimination by places of public accommodation that are included in the NDO went into effect on October 1, 2021. Employment protections included in the NDO went into effect January 1, 2022. Public accommodations protections were in place before the NDO was passed but did not include all of the new Protected Classes that are listed in the NDO.
- How do I file a complaint if I have been discriminated against?
Complaints can be submitted through the Community Relations Department’s (CRD) online complaint form. You may choose to complete a paper form if that is your preference.
NDO Complaint Form: https://charlottenc.seamlessdocs.com/f/nondiscrimination
- What if the person filing the complaint can’t read/write, needs an accommodation for a disability, doesn’t has access to technology, or needs translation/interpretation services?
A Community Relations staff member would be happy to discuss the accommodation needed to file a complaint. A staff member can assist you with completing the complaint form. The goal is for every member of our community to be able to have access to file a complaint. You can call 704-336-5160 or email NDO@Charlottenc.gov. You can also file a complaint at 700 Parkwood Avenue, Charlotte, NC 28205.
- How long do I have to file a complaint?
The Community Relations Department can receive NDO complaints filed within 180 days of an incident. If the alleged discrimination took place over a period of time, the 180 days starts on the last day that it took place.
- What are the Protected Classes listed in the NDO?
New Protected Classes in the NDO include Familial Status, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression, Veteran Status, Pregnancy, and Natural Hairstyle. Additional Protected Classes include Race, Ethnicity, Sex, Color, Religion, Age, Disability, and National Origin. Protections for people with disabilities are also covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
- What if I face retaliation for filing a complaint?
The ordinance includes protections from retaliation for any person or other entity for reporting any incident of discrimination. It also protects those who assisted or participated in any manner in any investigation, proceeding, or hearing. The Respondents of each case will receive a Letter of Notice informing them that retaliation against any person for participation in the enforcement of the Charlotte NDO is a discriminatory practice prohibited under the ordinance. If you face retaliation for filing a complaint, please inform the CRD promptly so that this matter may be addressed.
- Do I need an attorney? Can I have an attorney or a representative? Will a Community Relations Department staff member be my representative?
While persons alleging discrimination are not required to have representation such as a case worker or an attorney, they have the right to have one. The Investigator assigned to the case will ask both parties (Complainant and Respondent) if they have representation that shall be included in communication regarding the investigation. Funding or recommendations for a representative will not be provided to either party by the CRD. CRD staff members including NDO Investigators will not be representatives of either party (Complainant or Respondent) as they are a neutral third party.
- What if I’ve already filed a complaint with my company’s Human Relations (HR) Department? May I still file a complaint with the City of Charlotte’s Community Relations Department?
Filing a complaint internally with your company’s HR Department is separate from filing a complaint with the City of Charlotte’s CRD. The CRD is a neutral third party that may investigate allegations of discrimination and facilitate Conciliation when appropriate. The CRD cannot begin to investigate a complaint until it is filed using the CRD’s complaint form. Filing a complaint with your company’s HR Department does not prohibit or prevent you from filing a complaint with the CRD as well.
- Can I file a complaint anonymously?
A completed complaint form will require the person alleging they were discriminated against to provide their name and contact information. An Investigator will need to communicate with both parties about the alleged discrimination to conduct an investigation. However, if you do not wish to complete a complaint form or have an investigation conducted, but simply want to speak to a CRD staff member anonymously about an act of discrimination, you can reach out via phone 704-336-5160 or email NDO@Charlottenc.gov.
- What does the investigation process look like?
The investigation process begins with the person alleging they were discriminated against filing a complaint with the Community Relations Department. An Investigator is then assigned who will develop an Investigative Plan and notify both parties (Complainant and Respondent) of the complaint and investigation. The parties are also encouraged to enter into Conciliation. The Respondent(s) are provided with a copy of the NDO and the Interrogatories which is a tool that the Investigator uses to collect information and documentation necessary to investigate the case. The investigation is conducted, and the Investigator will provide the CRD Director with a recommendation of either a “Cause Finding”, meaning the evidence supports that discrimination took place, or a “No Cause Finding”, meaning the evidence provided does not support the allegation that discrimination took place. The CRD Director makes a determination and both parties are notified. If there was a “No Cause Finding”, the case is closed. If the determination is a “Cause Finding”, the option for Conciliation is presented again. If a Conciliation Agreement is reached, the case is closed. If there is a failure to Conciliate, there will be a Public Hearing with the Community Relations Committee’s Hearing Panel. If the panel’s determination is “No Cause Finding”, the case is closed. If the panel determines there is a “Cause Finding”, the parties are once again encouraged to enter into Conciliation. If there is a failure to Conciliate, the Community Relations Committee will refer to the City Attorney’s Office for appropriate action. Your assigned NDO Investigator will be able to discuss the process with you and answer any questions that you may have.
- What is Conciliation?
Conciliation is a process in which both parties (Complainant and Respondent) participate in a discussion with a neutral Conciliator which results in voluntary compliance to resolve and correct the matter(s) in dispute. Conciliation efforts shall remedy any harm or loss suffered by the Complainant, discontinue the discriminatory practices, and effect a final and complete resolution of the matter(s) in dispute. A successful conciliation agreement does not imply any guilt or misconduct on any of the parties, and if an agreement is reached, the CRD closes the case without making a finding of fact. The CRD encourages both parties to participate in the Conciliation process while the investigation continues. Conciliation may be offered or encouraged multiple times throughout the process. The Conciliation Agreement is signed by the Respondent, Complainant, and the CRC Director.
- What is a Public Hearing?
After the CRD Director makes a determination of a “Cause Finding,” in the event that there was a failure to Conciliate, the CRD Director may recommend a Public Hearing. The Complainant & Respondent(s) are notified of the hearing at least 10 days before the hearing. If applicable, representation shall also be notified. The Complainant and Respondent(s) appear at the hearing. Witnesses may be examined & cross-examined. Testimony will be given under oath. Evidence may be presented. The hearing may result in a “Cause Finding” meaning the evidence supports that discrimination took place or a “No Cause Finding” meaning the evidence provided does not support the allegation that discrimination took place.
- I am having an issue with my employer, but it is not related to discrimination based on a Protected Class. Can the Community Relations Department help me?
If your issue is not related to discrimination based on a Protected Class, an NDO investigation will not be conducted. However, you may reach out to us to discuss a more appropriate resource for the matter. You can call 704-336-5160 or email NDO@Charlottenc.gov. We may refer you to another organization/resource, a different City of Charlotte Department, or to the CRD’s Dispute Settlement Program. The Dispute Settlement Program includes several types of mediation including mediating conflicts between co-workers as well as employer/employee disputes. To learn more please visit Dispute Settlement/Mediation
- Who can I contact to ask questions during the investigation?
Once your investigation begins, you will be assigned an NDO Investigator for your case and will be given their phone number and email address. You may contact them with additional questions during the investigation process. Our Investigation Team welcomes your questions and are happy to help.
- Are rideshare companies such as Uber or Lyft covered under the NDO?
Rideshares such as Uber or Lyft are not covered under the jurisdiction of Charlotte’s Nondiscrimination Ordinance. Rideshare complaints would be handled by the individual companies and NC DMV. Many rideshare companies allow customers to report issues through their app, website, or customer service phone number. The US Department of Justice: Civil Rights Division receives civil rights violation complaints. CMPD Passenger Vehicles for Hire handles Taxi, Limousine, and Non-Metered transportation companies.
Learn more about the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Department at www.charlottenc.gov/crc