On February 8, 2017, the City Council for Jackson, Michigan approved a non-discrimination ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. The ordinance passed 5-2 and after extensive and heated public debate.
A full copy of the ordinance is available here. Except for exempted employers, e.g., religious organizations, the ordinance covers any employer that employs one or more persons.
Under the ordinance, the City may only investigate allegations of sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination. If an individual’s complaint would be covered by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, then the complaint must be filed with that agency and Jackson will not accept the complaint. Complaints involving discrimination based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status must be filed with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights or EEOC.
Here are additional points that employers and individuals should be aware of:
- Except for exempted companies, e.g., religious organizations, the ordinance covers any employer that employs one or more persons. It also extends to employment agencies.
- Also, there is no private right of action. This means individuals cannot sue for violating the ordinance. If there is a violation, however, a civil infraction will be issued with a fine of up to $500 per each day of the violation.
- All complaints must be filed within 30 days of an incident to the city’s Human Relations Commission.
Unfortunately, the State of Michigan has failed to amend its main civil rights statute, the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act, to provide LGBTQ individuals the same protections afforded to other individuals. But Jackson, like many Michigan communities, have taken the initiative to enact to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
In this regard, Mr. Jim Murray, the president of AT&T of Michigan, and Patti Poppe, the president and CEO of Consumers Energy, explained why such anti-discrimination protections are important for businesses to remain competitive in attracting talented and qualified employees. Here is an excerpt:
To stay competitive in today’s economy and attract quality talent, we need to be zealous in our efforts to make our communities more welcoming to all. In the absence of action at the state level, 41 Michigan communities have passed similar measures. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals deserve to know their company stands with them; no person should live in fear of losing their job simply because of who they are … discrimination is discrimination and people are people. We don’t need them seeking opportunities elsewhere because we couldn’t make room for them in our Michigan communities.
Contact attorney Jason Shinn for more information about federal and Michigan employment laws, including anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.