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Human Rights Ordinances and Gender Identity Discrimination

Do all cities in Florida provide similar protections against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity? According to a report from Jacksonville’s public radio WJCT News, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry released a memo to employees of the city, indicating that he is “changing the city’s employment policy to prohibit discrimination of any kind.” Curry intimated that changes made within the city’s hiring and employee-retention practices are aimed at “aligning with federal hiring standards.” But is Curry going far enough when it comes to prohibiting workplace discrimination against specific groups? According to a recent article in NBC 12 News, Curry’s approach makes clear that “we still have a ways to go” in terms of protecting LGBT employees.

While these questions about workplace discrimination are happening north of the West Palm Beach area, they are important for employees to consider throughout the state of Florida. To be sure, cities can set trends, and we need to think carefully about the ways in which the language of discrimination prohibitions actually might limit individual rights.

Getting Jacksonville Up to Federal Standards

By underscoring the prohibition of “any kind of discrimination” in the city of Jacksonville, Curry is allegedly bringing the urban area in line with current federal standards for hiring. Notably, Curry’s language does not include any specific protections for discrimination based on sexual orientation or sexual identity. When we take a look at the protections provided by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the language looks a bit different. Indeed, as the WJCT News report points out, the EEOC “says discrimination against employees for being gay or transgender is prohibited because it’s a form of sex discrimination.”

The Jacksonville mayor emphasized that “he does not support any further anti-discrimination legislation.” In other words, Curry is not in favor of two pending human rights ordinance (HRO) bills that would amend the current HRO in the city. The bills are aimed at prohibiting discrimination based specifically on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment situations, but also in housing and public areas.

Other Problems with the City’s Discrimination Prohibitions

If the amendment to the HRO does not pass, Curry’s memo may further limit employment discrimination claims in Jacksonville. Without amending the city’s HRO, the changes made by the mayor apply “only to the hiring of city employees and vendors with city contracts,” according to WJCT News.

Supporters of the HRO bill want to make clear that Jacksonville is a city in which employment discrimination against LGBT workers is strictly prohibited. To be sure, former mayor and current council member Tommy Hazouri (who is sponsoring the HRO bill) underscored that Jacksonville’s motto is “Jacksonville—where Florida begins.” If we think of the city as a gateway to our state, Hazouri suggests, then that motto “should also read: where inequality ends,” according to the NBC 12 News article.

Contact a Workplace Discrimination Attorney in West Palm Beach

If you or someone you love experienced discrimination during the hiring process or was wrongfully terminated, you may be able to file a claim and should discuss your case with an experienced West Palm Beach employment discrimination lawyer as soon as possible. Contact Scott • Wagner and Associates to learn more about how we can help.

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* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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