ACC considering a proposed non-discrimination ordinance

It is important for the Unified Government to ensure that all persons within Athens-Clarke County have equal access to employment, housing, and public accommodations. The Mayor & Commission will consider adopting a Non-Discrimination Ordinance at the August 3 voting session (it will be discussed at the July 20 Agenda-setting meeting) to make these forms of discrimination illegal.

After discussing the issue for months, the Legislative Review Committee (LRC) unanimously voted to send a proposed draft of an NDO to the entire Commission.

An ACC Non-Discrimination Ordinance, if enacted, will protect and safeguard the right and opportunity of all persons to be free from all forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, marital status, familial status, or veteran/military status.

Along with the NDO, Commissioner Denson is hoping that ACC will finally take the step of creating a civil rights committee.

Here are details on the current non-discrimination ordinance proposal (it is important to note that this is only proposed and could change):

Civil Rights Declared Per the Ordinance

The right of an otherwise qualified person to be free from discrimination because of that person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, marital status, familial status, or veteran/military status is recognized as and declared to be a civil right. This right shall include, but not be limited to, all of the following:

  • The right to obtain and hold employment and the benefits associated therewith without discrimination.
  • The right to the full enjoyment of any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, or privileges of any place of public resort, accommodation, assemblage, or amusement without discrimination.
  • The right to be served or receive service at retail establishments without discrimination.
  • The right to engage in property transactions, including obtaining housing for rental or sale and credit therefor, without discrimination.
  • The right to exercise any right granted under this ordinance without suffering coercion or retaliation.

Exceptions to the Ordinance

the following are not discriminatory practices prohibited by this ordinance:

  • A religious organization that employs an individual of a particular religion to perform work connected with the organization who insists that the employee adhere to the tenets of the religious organization as a condition of employment.
  • An employer who observes the conditions of an affirmative action plan or a seniority system, which is not a pretext to evade the purposes of this ordinance.
  • A business is not required to hire or retain unqualified or incompetent personnel. 
  • This ordinance does not prohibit an employer from requiring an employee, during the employee’s hours at work, to adhere to reasonable and equitable dress or grooming standards not prohibited by other provisions of Federal, State or local law, provided that all employees are permitted to dress in a manner consistent with their gender identity.
  • This ordinance shall not apply to a nonprofit private club.
  • A business is not required to make changes to any existing facility that would require a building permit, except as otherwise required by law.
  • This ordinance does not prohibit a religious organization from limiting its non­ commercial accommodations, advantages, facilities, membership, and privileges to persons of the same religion.
  • This ordinance shall not be construed in such a way as to violate any person’s rights under the United States Constitution or the Georgia Constitution.

Enforcement of the Ordinance

The Unified Government shall receive, initiate, investigate, seek to conciliate, hold hearings, on and/or pass upon complaints alleging violations of this ordinance.

Penalty of a Violation of the Ordinance

Any person of business found to have violated this ordinance shall be subject to a civil penalty of $1,000 for each violation. Any business penalized three (3) times under this Chapter shall lose their right to operate in Athens-Clarke County.

Voluntary Mediation Per the Ordinance

Notice and instruction of a voluntary mediation program for discrimination complaints will be provided in a timely manner following a complaint’s filing. Should mediation be requested, the County Attorney shall provide the services of a private mediator to conduct non-binding mediation between the complainant and the respondent. The mediator shall be recommended by the County Attorney from a list of qualified mediators. Such mediation services shall be paid by the parties, sharing equally.