In alignment with Buncombe County, on April 27 Asheville City Council passed a Nondiscrimination Ordinance, protecting people from discrimination in public accommodations and private employment.
From March 30, 2017, through December 1, 2020, the State of North Carolina prohibited local governments from regulating private employment practices and/or public accommodations. This restriction ceased in December of 2020, allowing local governments to enact ordinance to protect people from discrimination on the basis of certain personal characteristics, like sexual orientation and gender identity. Until such time that the State adopts laws prohibiting discriminatory practices, local governments are taking the proactive measure to adopt nondiscrimination ordinances in order to prevent such expressions of bigotry and inequity.
The ordinance goes into effect July 1 and will prohibit discrimination in private employment and in public accommodations based upon any of the following: race, natural hair or hairstyles, ethnicity, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin or ancestry, marital or familial status, pregnancy, veteran status, religious belief or non-belief, age, or disability.
Starting July 1, complaints of discrimination can be filed with City Office of Equity and Inclusion. The Office of Equity and Inclusion will conduct an investigation into the alleged conduct. Complaints will be addressed through education, mediation, and conciliation. If these efforts are unsuccessful, $100 civil penalties may be levied. There will be no criminal penalties.
City and County staff have worked together for a unified approach to this issue. At the April 20 meeting of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners a nondiscrimination ordinance was adopted to apply to unincorporated areas of the county.
This action is aligned with City Council’s strategic priority of an Equitable and Diverse Community.
To read the staff report to Council about this ordinance and the resolution, visit this link. For more information, visit this link to City Attorney Brad Branham’s presentation to Council.