Plans by San Jose-based Paypal to open a new global operations center in Charlotte, North Carolina appear to be off the table following the March 23 signing into law of House Bill 2, a new law from the state legislature aimed at overturning a progressive city ordinance in Charlotte protecting LGBT individuals. The most controversial aspect of the law for conservative state politicatians, as the Charlotte Observer reports, would allow transgender people to use restrooms of the gender they identify with, and legislators decided this was a bridge too far into liberal anarchy. In response, Paypal CEO Dan Schulman became one of over 100 CEOs to publicly condemn North Carolina for trying to reverse an ordinance based on non-discrimination, and he says the company is prepared to pull the 400 jobs that they were planning to bring to Charlotte as a result.
In a statement today on Paypal's website, Schulman says:
Two weeks ago, PayPal announced plans to open a new global operations center in Charlotte and employ over 400 people in skilled jobs. In the short time since then, legislation has been abruptly enacted by the State of North Carolina that invalidates protections of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens and denies these members of our community equal rights under the law.
The new law perpetuates discrimination and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture. As a result, PayPal will not move forward with our planned expansion into Charlotte.
This decision reflects PayPal’s deepest values and our strong belief that every person has the right to be treated equally, and with dignity and respect. These principles of fairness, inclusion and equality are at the heart of everything we seek to achieve and stand for as a company. And they compel us to take action to oppose discrimination.
He adds that the company nonetheless plans to work "with the LGBT community in North Carolina to overturn this discriminatory legislation."
State lawmakers are, naturally, now scrambling in the face of this most immediate display of corporate protest against the law, though they have also been condemned by the NBA and companies like American Airlines and Bank of America.
Of course, some of them also sound out of touch enough with the state of LGBT rights that they're not going to really get it anytime soon. As NC state senator Jeff Tarte tells the Charlotte Observer, they "can't ignore" Paypal's decision, however, "I don’t want men in girls’ showers. That’s not negotiable."
Charlotte's non-discrimination ordinance passed the city council in a 7-4 vote in February after much vocal support and opposition. The law prevents discrimination by businesses and taxi drivers against LGBT customers, but as in other parts of the country, it was the bathroom provision that drew the most ire from the anti- side.
Opponents in the legislature blame Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts for bringing up these issues at all, essentially saying that by talking about anti-discrimination she's stirred a pot and created economic consequences like the Paypal decision. Of course most of this has to do with fear and ignorance surrounding transgender people just look at this op-ed piece from a Gaston County, NC paper from yesterday by way of example. (E.g. "It would be discriminatory if a person, any person was forbidden to use a public restroom or shower. However, there is no discrimination in maintaining a level of civility and common respect and courtesy in respect to requiring people who are anatomically men to use a men’s restroom or a single bathroom or shower unit." That doesn't sound Jim Crow-ish at all!)
Paypal is said to be considering Arizona and Florida as alternative locations for their new global operations center.
Update: Selisse Berry, CEO of SF-based Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, chimes in with a statement: “Every person has the right to be treated equally regardless of whether they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Discriminating against someone because of who they love or how they self-identify should not be tolerated in any state. We applaud PayPal for understanding the importance of LGBT diversity and inclusion. It is clear that PayPal knows that discrimination is costly and bad for business.”