North Carolina Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act
The Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (REDA) is North Carolina’s super anti-discrimination law combining elements of several federal laws, including:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- The Fair Labor Standards Act.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
- The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.
The Employment Discrimination Bureau (EDB) in the state Department of Labor (www.nclabor.com/edb/edb.htm) enforces REDA.
The law bars discrimination against people who have exercised, or threatened to exercise, their rights under the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act, the Wage and Hour Act, OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Act.
In addition, the law protects sickle cell and hemoglobin C carriers, National Guard members and reservists, Juvenile Justice Act program participants and domestic-violence victims from discrimination based on their status. REDA also forbids employers from conducting genetic testing on employees or using genetic information in hiring, firing or promotion decisions.
REDA puts real teeth in North Carolina’s anti-discrimination laws. For example, the state’s OSHA protects workers from discrimination based on “sex, race, ethnic origin, or by reason of religious affiliation.” Employers that retaliate against workers protected by NCOSHA can also be liable under REDA. Similarly, employers may not discipline employees for absenteeism due to domestic violence without running afoul of REDA.
Employees can also file REDA complaints if they feel employers have interfered with their rights under any of the other laws listed above. They must file complaints within 180 days of the alleged discrimination.
The EDB will investigate a complaint to determine if there’s “reasonable cause to believe the allegations are true.” If so, it will issue a “right-to-sue” letter at the employee’s request. (Even if the bureau finds no reasonable cause, it will issue a right to sue letter and close its files. Or, the EDB may elect to file suit itself.)
Once the employee receives the right-to-sue letter, he or she must file suit within 90 days. The employee may seek:
- An injunction to enjoin the employer from the discriminatory action.
- Reinstatement to the same position held before the retaliatory action or discrimination occurred or placement in an equivalent position.
- Reinstatement of full fringe benefits and seniority rights.
- Compensation for lost wages, lost benefits and other economic losses related to the retaliatory action or discrimination.
If a jury decides the employer willfully violated the act, it may award three times the damages. Unlike federal employment laws, REDA has no cap on damages.