Phoenix Prohibits Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination

Last week, Phoenix City Council members added sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and disability to the Phoenix City Code prohibiting employment discrimination. The code applies to employers, regardless of size, located within the City of Phoenix and employers who employ more than 35 employees who are vendors, suppliers, or contractors doing business with the City. The new law takes effect March 26, 2013.

Prior to last week’s amendment, employers located within the City were prohibited from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age over 40, genetic information, and marital status, and employers employing more than 35 employees who were vendors, suppliers, or contractors doing business with the City were prohibited from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Because race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age over 40, disability, and genetic information are also protected by state and federal law, most employees alleging unlawful discrimination pursue claims with the Arizona Civil Rights Division or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. However, employees claiming discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression and those working for small employers not covered by federal or state law can pursue claims with the City.  

Religious organizations, private clubs, and some other entities are exempt from the Code. Upon receipt of a complaint, the City will first ask the parties to mediate. The City Code does, however, allow for misdemeanor criminal charges with a penalty of up to $2500.