On Tuesday, the Phoenix City Council voted 5-3 to pass an amended ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on “sexual orientation,” “gender identity or expression,” and “disability.” For private employers, this change in the law means they risk criminal penalties if they are found to have discriminated against an employee or applicant based on these new protected classes. The city ordinance applies to employers doing business in the city of Phoenix who consistently employ at least one person. The “gender identity or expression” protections prohibit discrimination based on an individual’s appearance, mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics. The protections for “disabled” individuals track the same protections offered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Similar to the process used by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, individuals who feel they have been discriminated against have 180 days to file a complaint with the Phoenix Equal Opportunity Department. Once a complaint is filed, the Department can investigate, issue subpoenas, and hold mediations to attempt to resolve the dispute. If an informal resolution cannot be reached, the Department may issue its findings and turn the matter over to a City Attorney to file a criminal complaint against the offending employer. There is no private cause of action available for violations of the ordinance. The amended Human Relations Ordinance continues to prohibit discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, genetic information or marital status.
Employers interested in learning more should contact the attorneys at BurnsBarton PLC.