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Does North Carolina law protect workplace interracial relationships? Federal court punts

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

A federal court has sidestepped the question of whether workplace discrimination based on participation in an interracial relationship is illegal under the North Carolina Equal Employment Practices Act (NCEEPA).

Recent case: Richard is a Native American. For five years, he worked as a chemistry lab technician at a chemical plant in Rocky Mount. He had a brief sexual relationship with a black co-worker at the lab. She be­­came pregnant with Richard’s child.

Some weeks later, another co-worker apparently announced in front of “the entire lab” that Richard had fathered the woman’s unborn child.

Richard’s supervisor then allegedly called him into his office and asked whether this was true. Richard said it was. The supervisor then responded, “That’s not good, that’s not good.” He didn’t elaborate further. A week later, Richard was fired for falsifying testing results.

He sued, alleging the real reason for his termination was that he had been in an interracial relationship. He claimed the NCEEPA made discrimination based on such relationships illegal in the workplace.

The federal court hearing the case noted that no North Carolina court has ever ruled whether such discrimination violates the law. It refused to guess what a state court would decide. Plus, it concluded that the employer would win in any case, since Richard couldn’t challenge the fact he was fired for a legitimate reason—falsifying test results in violation of company policy. (Sampson v. Leonard, et al., No. 4:10-CV-121, ED NC, 2012)

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