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Ag-Gag Law Challenged

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USDA

Animal rights and public interest groups are challenging a state law that allows employers to sue employees who secretly take pictures or record audio in the workplace.  The Ag-Gag law, as it’s often called, went into effect January 1. Supporters say it’s needed to protect businesses from activists who seek employment to undermine a company. Detractors say it’s unconstitutional.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Government Accountability Project. They want the court to strike down the state’s Ag-Gag law on the grounds that it prevents employees from uncovering wrongdoing in the workplace, especially in businesses such as nursing homes and animal slaughter houses.  The group’s attorney David Muraskin says the law violates the constitution on several fronts.

“The law violates the first amendment by preventing people from speaking publicly about corporate misconduct and lobbying for change,” Muraskin said. “It violates the due process and equal protection clause of the 14th amendment because it singles out people who want to inform the public and prevents them from their desired form of speech, and the supreme court says laws like this cannot stand.”

Governor McCrory vetoed the bill, saying it doesn’t protect workers who uncover criminal activity.  Lawmakers overrode his veto. Animal rights groups have charged that the law was designed to end their undercover investigations of abuses of animals in slaughter houses. Journalists have made similar claims. The group Mercy for Animals pointed to a conviction against a chicken farm worker in Rockingham last month following a secret videotaping. Under the Ag-Gag law, that investigation would have been illegal.