CLIENT ALERT: Update on DiscriminationClient Alert
The “#metoo” presence and the recent Kavanaugh confirmation hearings have brought sexual discrimination issues to the forefront of the American mind. Always an incendiary and confusing topic, it also includes various permutations of issues involving sex, sex stereotyping, sexual orientation, and transgender situations. Employment issues abound, including proper use of restrooms and disciplinary matters. “LBGTQ” are more than mere letters strung together.
Cuyahoga County passed an ordinance recently which applies to all Cuyahoga County cities and townships, making it unlawful for any business to discriminate against any person based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. A Commission on Human Rights was designated to investigate and rule on complaints.
Similarly, the City of Akron passed an ordinance expanding equal employment for employees working in the city. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees located in the city, as well as businesses that take contracts from the City but are located elsewhere. Employers with 4 or more individuals are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of the “traditional” bases (such as race, color, religion, etc.), but also on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. The ordinance also created the Akron Civil Rights Commission to receive and investigate complaints.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has taken the position that discrimination on the basis of sex includes transgender, sexual identity, and sexual orientation. The Ohio Civil Rights Commission is the state investigative arm that similarly investigates such complaints (which they often term as a “Charge”).
Ohio is located in the Federal Sixth Circuit. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently decided a case involving transgender issues, and also discussed whether a religious belief may play a part in an employer’s decision to terminate an employee. That case is now on appeal to the United States Supreme Court and, no matter how the Supreme Court rules (and whether or not the Court decides to take the case for review), employer-employee relations will be affected.
Given the currently charged atmosphere, employers should consider a review of their employment practices and handbooks. In addition, management training should be considered to stay ahead of the trends in this important area.