PepsiCo head Indra Nooyi personally handed North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory a letter, pressuring him to repeal a law that the CEO considers discriminatory against the LGBT community. PepsiCo is the latest company to rally against the law, which effectively strips local governments of the ability to create discrimination rules for LGBT people, leaving North Carolina to think about the economic consequences for the state.
According to the Associated Press, Indra Nooyi’s letter said the LGBT law was inconsistent with PepsiCo’s treatment of employees, and that it undermines the interests of North Carolina in general. Nooyi finally asked the governor and the legislature to repeal the law when they reconvene later this month.
PepsiCo isn’t the first company to protest the measure, which has a complicated, but fairly short history.
In February, the city council of Charlotte approved new city ordinances that would allow transgender people to use the restroom that aligns with their gender-identity. Likewise, it extended protections for people in the LGBT community at businesses like hotels, stores, and restaurants. The rules were created to prevent discrimination against transgender people, but it also caused outrage in come conservative circles of North Carolina, and the state legislature and Governor Pat McCrory jumped into action.
They wrote and approved a bill that would prohibit local governments from making LGBT-friendly ordinances. But there was a near immediate backlash from companies and CEOs like Indra Nooyi, and now North Carolina is stuck between its conservative voters and its economic interests.
Pat McCrory tried to defend the LGBT measure, saying at a press conference that it didn’t really change much.
“We have not taken away any rights that have currently existed in any city in North Carolina, from Raleigh to Durham to Chapel Hill to Charlotte. Every city and every corporation has the exact same discrimination policy this week as they had two weeks ago.”
Politifact rated the comment “false” and detailed many of the ways the laws have been affecting local government’s ability to prevent discrimination.
The cities of Carrboro and Raleigh, for example, had regulations saying that contractors hired by the local governments must have company policies forbidding discrimination against LGBT people. Under the new North Carolina law, those specific ordinances are outlawed.
Carrboro’s city attorney, Nick Herman, explained that Governor McCrory was “completely wrong.”
“I was absolutely shocked to hear that the governor – I give him all presumption of good faith – but for him to claim this bill does not change existing law means he is not being adequately advised.”
The law also appears to take away the right of individuals to file discrimination lawsuits over firings based on LGBT status.
Eric Doggett, a Raleigh lawyer specializing in employment discrimination, said “This is a seismic issue.”
“It’s huge. It’s a massive loss of rights, and it happened with almost no debate.”
Still, if CEOs like Indra Nooyi keep stepping forward, North Carolina might be forced to change it, or else face economic problems.
The Guardian reports that the Indra Nooyi is joined by 120 other corporate executives calling for a change. Google’s parent company also said it wouldn’t invest in some of the state’s start-ups, and NCAA president Mark Emmert indicated that the measure would affect the state’s chances of hosting major sporting events in the future.
Supporters of the law say hundreds of businesses do support the measure, and they’ve sent a letter of their own and have held vigils.
Indra Nooyi is the latest executive to step into the fray with Governor Pat McCrory, but the fight is most likely not close to being over.
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]