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April 4, 2008


Franklin adds job bias
protection for county workers

Columbus--Franklin County has become Ohio’s third one to protect its employees from discrimination by sexual orientation, and the first county to include gender identity.

The measure was enacted by the county commissioners at their April 1 meeting. The other two counties with sexual orientation measures are Cuyahoga and Summit.

The commission also approved a resolution to support the Equal Housing and Employment Non-Discrimination Act, currently before the Ohio general assembly.

Commission president Marilyn Brown and members Paula Brooks and Mary Jo Kilroy, also a candidate for Congress, unanimously approved both measures. They followed this with a written statement saying it was necessary for the county to compete for the best employees possible.

The policy is based on an almost identical executive order signed by Governor Ted Strickland in May, banning discrimination for Ohio state employees.

The law, which goes in effect immediately, empowers the director of the county Department of Human Resources to handle complaints.

Under the action, discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is prohibited in hiring, layoff, termination, transfer, promotion, demotion, rate of compensation, and eligibility for training programs.

The measure passed quickly with no opposition following brief testimony by Equality Ohio director Lynne Bowman.

“Some may try to tell you that laws like the one you consider today can hurt businesses by exposing them to greater liability with harassing civil rights violations claims or lawsuits,” Bowman said.

“The facts, again, speak differently,” she continued. “A 2002 General Accounting Office study found no significant increase in lawsuits no claims in states that banned discrimination for sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Twenty states now have sexual orientation non-bias laws; 13 include gender identity.

“In many ways, what we discuss today simply boils down to a matter of doing what’s right,” Bowman said.

“Consistent with our shared values as Americans, we live in a country that prides itself as a place of freedom for all, with inalienable rights for every person,” Bowman continued.

Like the Cuyahoga and Summit measures, Franklin’s applies only to employees of the county. Eight Ohio cities have sexual orientation job discrimination ordinances that cover both public and private workers, and four of these include gender identity. Three more protect city employees only.

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