Bill with controversial undercover provision clears House

Gaining employment just to conduct an undercover investigation would be illegal under a bill that cleared the state House Wednesday.

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Mark Binker
RALEIGH, N.C. — Landing a job just to conduct an investigation of your new employer would be illegal under a measure the state House passed 99-19 Wednesday night.
House Bill 405, which cleared committee Tuesday, now goes to the Senate. Its sponsors say the measure is aimed at protecting businesses from theft of physical and intellectual property.

But while the majority of the measure is not controversial, animal rights groups complain that it could stifle efforts to bring food safety and animal cruelty violations to light. Under the bill, employers would be able to sue employees who get hired solely to conduct investigations.

"This is an 'ag-gag' bill," said Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, using the pejorative term to describe legislation shielding factory farms from investigations.

Backers of the bill across the ideological spectrum disagreed.

"Agriculture does not have anything to hide," declared Rep. Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin, noting that the bill addressed situations in workplaces ranging from retail establishments to farms to hospitals.

The prohibitions in the bill, said Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, would not apply to journalists or employees who genuinely stumbled upon a problem. Rather, he said, those affected would be "a small amount of folks who, in my view, are fraudulently taking their employers' money."

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