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Proposed Houston ordinance fights employment discrimination

Privately-owned businesses may often operate under a different set of regulations than their public counterparts. In Houston, there are many companies that can exercise their discretions a little more freely than others, including whom they employ. When it comes to employment discrimination, however, there is some debate over what constitutes wrongdoing and what is simply a preference. One local lawmaker is looking to control discrimination policies for both public and private companies.

The Houston mayor has proposed an ordinance that would prohibit employers from discriminating against people in a variety of sectors, including city positions as well as private businesses and housing. The proposal takes into account discrimination based on marital status, race and sex. In a debate at a recent city council meeting, opponents were able to voice their opinions. For many, the issue of transgendered individuals choosing which bathroom to use struck a nerve. Others noted that they did not support the ordinance due to their personal religious beliefs.

There would be as much as a $5,000 fine for companies that are found to have broken the ordinance. Certain organizations would be exempt from the proposal, such as religious institutions and companies that employ fewer than 50 people. The council has planned to vote on the issue in May.

No matter the outcome of the vote, it is important for businesses to have adequate legal representation to mitigate the effects of disputes such as wrongful termination or bias. Employer liability claims can have a devastating effect on a business that lacks the help of an attorney.

Source: KHOU, “Houston City Council hosts emotional debate over equal rights,” Doug Miller, May 7, 2014

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