As I look forward to my first Assembly meeting with our new mayor, I’ve begun work on yet another version of the equal rights ordinance. Once I have a draft I’m happy with I’ll try to post it but, in a nutshell, I’m trying to write something a little simpler than the three versions offered thus far and clarify exemptions for religious institutions. There’s one aspect I’m considering, however, about which I could use a little feedback.
Readers may be aware that many federal employment laws exempt smaller businesses from their jurisdiction. This isn’t to encourage small businesses to, for example, discriminate, rather it’s recognition that enforcement agencies have finite resources and a small business may similarly lack the resources to ensure their compliance with the myriad of laws. By contrast, Anchorage’s equal rights law defines an employer as “…an employer, public or private, of one or more persons.” In the context of the discussion about whether Anchorage should add sexual orientation as a protected class some small business owners have expressed concern about their ability to incorporate this change.
Having had a relatively close view of the complaint process with the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights, an entity similar to Anchorage’s Equal Rights Commission, I am somewhat sympathetic to the concerns of those small business owners as the process can be rather daunting (for both sides, actually), especially if you cannot afford legal representation. I am therefore considering drafting an amendment to my version of the equal rights ordianance that would exempt employers with five or fewer employees, and that would apply not just to sexual orientation but all classes (currently “race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, age or physical or mental disability.”).
This morning I presented that concept at a fellowship meeting of the Unitarian Universalists and, in general, congregants felt such an approach represented an inappropriate step backward for those currently protected. I’m still leaning toward at least offering the amendment, even if I don’t ultimately vote for it, just to ensure the Assembly thinks carefully about the idea during our deliberations. (By the way, I don’t expect us to wrap up public hearings and commence deliberations until August, at the earliest.)
In the meantime, I’d appreciate hearing from more folks about this idea. Keep the comments coming!
Copyright - Patrick Flynn, All Rights Reserved