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Labor and Employment Law

Phoenix Adds Sexual Orientation as a Protected Class – Ordinance G-5780

The City of Phoenix added "sexual orientation" and "gender identity or expression" to the groups of protected classes under local law. The non-discrimination provisions prohibit discrimination in (1) employment; (2) public accommodations; (3) housing; (4) city construction contracts; and (5) city supplier and lessee contracts. Additionally, "disability" was added as a protected class to the provisions addressing employment and public accommodations - as it already appeared in provisions 3 through 5.

The City Council Report, Policy Agenda, identifies the proposed definition of "sexual orientation" which refers to "an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes as well as the genders that accompany them and shall include discrimination based upon the identification, perception, or status of an individual's same-sex, opposite sex, or bi-sexual orientation." "'Gender identity or expression' means an individual's self-identification as male, female, or something in between, and shall include an individual's appearance, mannerisms, or other characteristics only insofar as they relate to gender with or without regard to the individual's designated sex at birth."

The effective date for Ordinance G-5780 is March 26, 2013. The ordinance, once signed, must be indexed before being made public. Therefore, it will not be online until next week. I believe some amendments were made, so you will want to check back and make sure the definitions described above remain consistent in the final version.

Many employment handbooks have provisions stating that companies will also comply with any local or state laws, but Phoenix companies may want to consider whether they need to revise their employee handbooks and be more specific as to these new protected classes.

You might recall that I previously wrote how the EEOC identified in its Strategic Enforcement Plan that the EEOC was focusing its time and energy on coverage of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals under Title VII's sex discrimination provisions. Ordinance G-5780 makes it clear that - whether it is specifically addressed or protected by federal law or not - Phoenix employers are prohibited from discriminating against individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

Read more articles on employment law issues at Employment and the Law, a blog by Ashley Kasarjian.

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