On February 27, 2014, by unanimous vote, the Tempe City Council approved a proposal to expand the Tempe City Code’s anti-discrimination ordinance to prohibit discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Businesses and employers that violate the ordinance face a civil sanction and fine of up to $2,500.
Tempe is the fourth city in the state of Arizona to adopt an anti-discrimination ordinance that encompasses its gay and transgendered residents. The other cities include Phoenix, Tucson, and Flagstaff. The ordinances do not create a private right of action by individuals against employers.
In a nod to the highly publicized Senate Bill (SB) 1062, Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell stated, “We are open for business. We don’t discriminate.” SB 1062, which was vetoed by Governor Jan Brewer on February 26, 2014, would have offered a legal defense to businesses denying service to individuals based on sincerely held religious beliefs. Opponents of the bill argued that it would permit discrimination against members of the gay, lesbian, and transgendered community. In her veto announcement, Governor Brewer stated that SB 1062 was “broadly worded” and “could result in unintended and negative consequences.”
While federal employment anti-discrimination laws currently do not protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has recently focused on discrimination against gay and transgendered individuals under the sex discrimination prohibition contained in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Additionally, Congress has proposed federal legislation that would prohibit discrimination against an employee or applicant based on the person’s sexual orientation or transgender status. The bill, entitled the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), was passed by the U.S. Senate on November 7, 2013, but has yet to be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. House Speaker John Boehner recently affirmed his opposition to ENDA, stating that the bill will not “get done in this session.”
Note: This article was published in the February 28, 2014 issue of the Arizona eAuthority.