Cuyahoga County Council recently passed an ordinance that expanded existing non-discrimination laws to include protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in housing, employment, and public accommodation. This is a significant change for many employers operating within Cuyahoga County.
The ordinance covers employers with four (4) or more workers in the County, and notably applies to both employees and independent contractors. The ordinance makes it unlawful for an employer – because of race, color, religion, military status, national origin, disability, age, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression – to do any of the following:
Discharge without cause;
Refuse to hire a person;
Discriminate against any person when hiring, promoting, determining tenure, discharging, or deciding any other terms or conditions of employment.
The ordinance also prohibits discriminatory hiring or promotional policies, discriminatory apprentice training programs, discriminatory advertisements which indicate the employer has a preference for gender conforming personnel, or the use of any third-party recruitment or hiring service who has been known to discriminate.
Importantly, the ordinance has created a three-person Cuyahoga County Commission on Human Rights. The members of the Commission will be appointed by the Executive subject to confirmation by the Council and, as a quasi-judicial body, the members of the Commission shall be composed of attorneys licensed to practice in the State of Ohio. The Commission’s primary function will be to receive and investigate complaints and issue civil monetary penalties if discrimination has occurred.
The full text of the ordinance can be found here: Ordinance No. O2018-0009.
Employers who are subject to the ordinance should review their current policies to determine whether they prohibit discrimination and harassment based upon sexual orientation and gender identity or expression and, if not, revise those policies accordingly. Additionally, employers should take steps to communicate these newly protected classifications to their supervisors and managers to ensure compliance with the ordinance.
If you have any questions regarding this new ordinance, or any other labor and employment law matter, please feel free to contact Tom Green or the K|W|W attorney you usually work with.