On Monday, December 15, 2008, the City of Columbus modified its ordinances related to discrimination (Chapter 2331 of the Columbus City Codes). The modifications add five new protected classes to the employment discrimination ordinance: age, disability, gender identity or expression, familial status, and military status.
The ordinance applies to all employers within the City of Columbus who employ four or more persons—the same minimum number of employees as state discrimination statutes. Three of these newly-added categories are already protected by federal or state law—age, disability, and military status. Employers will have new obligations only as to gender identity or expression and familial status.
Ord. 2331.03 now makes it an unlawful discriminatory practice for any employer, because of race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, familial status, or military status to refuse to hire or “otherwise to discriminate against [a] person with respect to hire, tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, or any matter directly or indirectly related to employment” (in addition to various other more specific prohibited employment actions defined in Ord. 2331.03(A)(2)–(13)).
“Gender identity or expression” is defined as “having or being perceived as having gender-related identity, appearance, expression, or behavior, whether or not that identity, appearance, expression, or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s actual or perceived sex.” Ord. 2331.01(A)(18). “Familial status” seems to protect a variety of different family arrangements, but it is unclear how broadly it applies. Ord. 2331.01(A)(19). Until it is enforced, it will be unclear what exactly is protected against “familial status” discrimination.
“Age” is defined as at least forty years old—the same minimum age as the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Ord. 2331.01(A)(14). “Disability” is defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities”—the same definition as the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Ord. 2331.01(A)(15). “Military status” protects those in the uniformed services. Ord. 2331.01(A)(20).
A violation of the ordinance is a misdemeanor of the first degree, which could result in imprisonment of up to 180 days and/or imposition of fines up to $1,000.