Metro has few recorded claims of sexual orientation discrimination

Monday, July 20, 2009 at 6:55pm

There have been eight documented claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation since 2005 and none of them came from Metro employees, according to data from the Metro Human Relations Commission.

Currently, a bill filed by at-large Councilwoman Megan Barry and co-sponsored by nine other Council members would make it unlawful to discriminate against a Metro worker based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

One of the primary reasons why a Council nondiscrimination ordinance failed in 2003 was the opposition’s assertion there wasn’t enough evidence of discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered workers.

So does the lack of claims call into question the need for such a bill?

Chris Sanders, president of the equal rights advocacy group the Tennessee Equality Project, said it was logical to have so few complaints since there was no protection for sexual orientation or gender identity.

“If you were at any employer and they didn’t have protection, then why would you report it? Why would you rock the boat?” Sanders said.

Sanders added that the Tennessee Equality Project has been contacted by Metro workers, who say they’ve been discriminated against in the workplace.

“In Metro government, there are people who are not out and don’t feel comfortable being out, and they fear repercussions if they report it without a policy,” Sanders said.

The Metro Human Relations Commission, which investigates employment, housing, financial services and housing discrimination, began documenting claims after the ordinance failed.

Although Human Relations Commission Executive Director Kelvin Jones said the commission investigates and records allegations of discrimination, it cannot take the same recourse it could take for protected classes like race, gender, religion and disability.

“We documented them,” Jones said. “We looked to determine if they had claims based upon their sex, or if they may have had a disability. But, if they were unable to be covered under a protected class then all we were able to do was to document.”

For protected classes, the Human Relations Commission can investigate claims of discrimination and potentially request an end to the alleged acts. It can also refer claims to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, or the Tennessee Fair Housing Council.

Besides budding support on Council, Barry’s nondiscrimination ordinance also has the support of Mayor Karl Dean.


3 Comments on this post:

By: White_but_not_s... on 7/21/09 at 4:58

If there are claims made then we have proof we need an ordinance

If there are not claims made then we have proof that people are too scared to report and we need an ordinance

Could it simply be that there is little true discrimination and no ordinance is needed?

By: sidneyames on 7/22/09 at 8:24

Gee I wish I had known all this when I was told that I had the highest scores on a test but my "personality" didn't fit. I was applying for a job at the state legislature. Hmmm! It was a job typing. I had the highest scores of anyone who tested -- so I was told by the interviewer. "Personality didn't fit". Didn't know I was running for Miss Congeniality; thought it was a job interview. Oh well. There are other jobs outo there. The one I got was better! Maybe the people who think they are discriminated against should just think twice and move on. I, personally, don't want to work someplace where people don't like me. It's more fun and healthier to work with people who like you.

By: OPENmindedONE on 7/22/09 at 6:43

That's a good example of someone not getting a job because of "fit" or personality, but what about someone who does not get promoted or is fired because they are gay? How does that make any sense?

It is easy to say there is not a problem when the Human Relations Commission refuses to track the complaints because there is no law to enforce them.