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N.C. law protects workers who refuse boss’s sexual advances

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in Firing,Human Resources

North Carolina’s Equal Employment Practices Act (EEPA) provides that “it is the public policy of this State” to protect employees from discrimination.

Until now, it was unclear how far the law went in giving employees the right to directly sue their employers. Now one court has ruled that employees who refuse their supervisor’s sexual advances can sue directly under state law.

Recent case: Paula May Townsend claimed that her supervisor made a number of sexual advances toward her —including touching her breasts and hair while expressing his sexual and romantic interest. Then she was fired.

She sued under the EEPA, claiming that firing her for refusing sexual advances was wrongful discharge under the law’s public-policy language. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and sent the case to trial. (Townsend v. Shook, No. 07-2188, 4th Cir., 2009)

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