Corporate Social Justice
North Carolina Enacts Landmark Policing Reform Law
September 7, 2021 | Chris Mattox
State legislatures are considering and advancing a broad range of social justice policies, from police and criminal justice reform to corporate board diversity and voting rights. The business community broadly is becoming increasingly engaged on these important policy issues. Our team is actively identifying, categorizing, and tracking these issues so that organizations, their government affairs professionals, and other internal stakeholder teams have the information they need to navigate and effectively engage with the new world of corporate social justice.
Last Updated October 19, 2021
Below is a summary of corporate social justice policies with sample legislation that we expect may arise across the states in the 2023 legislative sessions. If you have questions on any of these policy areas or would like to learn more about how MultiState can help your organization navigate these issues, please contact Lauren Doroghazi (firstname.lastname@example.org).
In the wake of the 2020 protests following the death of George Floyd, some states began introducing legislation to prohibit the teaching and use by employers of critical race theory. Critical race theory is a legal concept examining the ways in which race affects the operation of law, which some bills characterize as assigning blame to individuals for historical racism based on those individuals’ membership in a certain race or ethnicity.
WV SB 498 (passed both chambers 2022)
Read in more detail on our Reproductive Health Care Issue Page. On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overruling Roe v. Wade and holding that the U.S. Constitution does not confer a right to an abortion. Since that time, several states have held special sessions to put additional abortion restrictions in place and many more are expected to debate both limiting abortion access and codifying the right to an abortion in 2023. There have also been notable discussions among conservative lawmakers regarding potential retaliation directed toward companies who have committed to providing travel expenses for employees who must leave their home states for certain medical procedures.
Parental rights issues grew in prominence after frustrations with school closures and vaccine requirements in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of this legislation would require that stakeholder collaboration to set performance standards include parents. Other legislative proposals would require parents to be notified about instructional materials that include “sexually explicit content.” Some parental rights bills would require school districts to notify parents about any changes to a student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being.
These proposals would prohibit instruction of sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through grade 3, and prohibit such instruction in later grades that is not age or developmentally appropriate. Proponents of this legislation have referred to it as “Parental Rights in Education” while opponents refer to proposals as “Don’t Say Gay.”
FL HB 1557 (enacted 2022)
These bills require school-sponsored athletic teams to be limited to one biological sex unless specifically designated as co-ed. Such bills generally define biological sex and prohibit biological males from competing on athletic teams designated for female student athletes. Some, but not all, of these bills also prohibit biological females from competing on athletic teams designated for male students. Frequently titled “Save Women’s Sports Act.”
OK SB 2 (enacted 2022)
These bills require multiple occupancy bathrooms to be designated according to biological sex and prohibit access by members of the opposite sex.
NC HB 2 (enacted 2016)
These policies seek to prohibit gender-affirming care or treatments that would delay puberty or change the appearance of one’s gender, in children under the age of 18.
AL SB 184 (enacted 2022)
Some states have banned the practice of conversion therapy, any practice or treatment that seeks to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity.
VA SB 245 (enacted 2020)
These issues will continue to evolve. One proposed bill this year specified that teachers are not required to use a student’s preferred pronouns if they do not match their biological sex.
TN HB 2633 (passed House 2022)
These bills generally prohibit discrimination against any entity, such as a business or religious organization, which refuses to provide services to an LGBT individual based on that entity’s sincerely held religious belief.
Policing reform has been a growing legislative trend over the last several years that became a bipartisan issue active in nearly all 50 states in the wake of country-wide protests resulting from George Floyd’s murder. “Policing Reform” is a broad term that encompasses a number of policies, many of which are included in the federal Justice for George Floyd Act – all of these reforms have been undertaken in at least one state. Some of the broad topics within the scope of policing reform include accountability, prevention, oversight, and training.
NC SB 300 (enacted 2021)
Like policing reform above, racial equity issues have risen to the forefront of legislators’ minds after George Floyd was murdered and the pandemic made clear racial disparities in health outcomes. Generally, we’d characterize these policies to include the following: bail reform; criminal background checks; criminal justice reforms, including eliminating driver’s license suspensions and fines and fees and felony expungement; social determinants of health; declaring racism a public health crisis; community development financial institutions.
Like many of the social issues on the list, the Covid-19 pandemic had an impact on election law as legislators responded to the expansion of vote by mail in many states during the pandemic. There are two distinct camps on this issue: Republicans that call for more oversight of elections and Democrats who view any tightening of rules as an impingement on voting rights. Expect this issue to come up again in 2023 as states will have time to implement enacted reforms before the next major election in 2024. You may view MultiState’s Election law dashboard here.
GA SB 202 (enacted 2021)
Bills addressing rights related to the sale and possession of firearms will remain a potentially controversial topic. Lawmakers in both parties will continue to introduce and enact legislation to either expand the rights of gun owners or make it more difficult to own firearms. The policy solutions and playbooks are entrenched for both parties; what has changed and will likely be impactful in the wake of the mass shootings in Buffalo, NY, and Uvalde, TX compared to prior tragedies is the fact that corporate activism has become expected.
These bills seek to address transparency in various parts of the supply chain. These bills, often referred to as “The Fashion Act,” require retail sellers and manufacturers to map their supply chains, disclose environmental and social due diligence policies, and establish community benefit funds to implement environmental benefit projects that directly and verifiably benefit environmental justice communities. Other proposals address the use of forced labor in the supply chain. Often, their focus is on China’s treatment of the Uyghur population in the Xinjiang region.