CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A majority of small business owners in North Carolina say they favor expanding employee protections to include gay and transgender workers, according to poll results released today by Equality North Carolina and the national group Small Business Majority.

“This poll underscores the business community’s widespread and broad-based support for policies protecting gay and transgender employees,” Stuart Campbell, executive director of Equality NC, said in a release. “Like the majority of Americans, North Carolina’s small business owners believe that no one should have to worry about losing their job, their home, or their security for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance.”

Sixty-seven percent of respondents to the poll said state law should protect LGBT workers. Additionally, 65 percent were in favor of a similar federal law.

The poll surveyed more than 100 entrepreneurs and small business owners in North Carolina and was conducted by Greenberg Quinlin Rosner Research in April.

Among other results, the poll found that a majority of small business owners mistakenly believed state and federal laws already protected LGBT workers. Sixty-four percent said they thought it was illegal in North Carolina to make employment decisions based on one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Eighty-four percent believed federal law prohibited such discrimination.

“These results reveal an important point: once business owners understand there are no current protections for gay and transgender workers, there is strong support for updating existing laws to prohibit this type of discrimination in the workplace,” said Campbell. “The release of this polling data provides a perfect opportunity to not only educate North Carolinians about the harsh realities and economic impacts of employment discrimination – from business board rooms to the floor of the General Assembly – but also the need for common sense updates to existing categories of protection.”

The poll also found a majority of business owners believe anti-discrimination laws should apply also to employers who say religious beliefs prevent them from hiring LGBT workers. Sixty-three percent also said anti-discrimination laws help their businesses succeed and enable them to attract better workers. Only about a third of the businesses themselves, however, had already adopted internal policies protecting gay and transgender employees.

Equality NC has said it is focusing its lobbying and education efforts on local employment non-discrimination policies this year. The group has also supported a statewide law that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination for state workers and teachers. That bill will not be heard during this year’s legislative session.

“It’s time for North Carolina to implement laws at the state level that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Until we do, our small businesses will continue to face extra administrative burdens and struggle to attract and retain the quality employees that are the heart of North Carolina’s economy,” said Campbell.

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.