The City of Little Rock has announced it will begin the process of considering a so-called “nondiscrimination” ordinance pertaining to city employment.
According to news sources, the ordinance would prevent the city from making employment decisions based on sexual-orientation or gender-identity, and it would prevent businesses that contract with the city from doing so as well. However, the ordinance is unnecessary and may run afoul of new state law.
You may recall that S.B. 202 passed during the last legislative session prevents cities and counties from extending any special rights or protections beyond those found in the Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993. However, the bill specifically exempts employment policies by cities and counties.
Under S.B. 202, the City of Little Rock might be free to decide it will not make employment decisions based on sexual-orientation or gender-identity, but it is questionable whether or not the city can require private businesses to adopt similar policies as a prerequisite for doing business with the city.
The fact that this ordinance apparently seeks to regulate private business is especially troubling.
However, this proposed ordinance appears to be completely unnecessary for two reasons.
First, there is no objective evidence at this point that people in Little Rock are being hired or fired based on their sexual-orientation or gender-identity. In that sense, this is a solution in search of a problem.
And second, the City of Little Rock already has a policy in place preventing employment decisions based on sexual-orientation and gender-identity.
The official Administrative Personnel Policy and Procedure Manual for the City of Little Rock says,
“It is the policy of the City not to discriminate in its employment and personnel practices because of a person’s race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, veteran’s status, political opinions or affiliation. This policy applies to all terms and conditions of employment, including, but not limited to: hiring, placement, promotion, termination, layoff, recall, transfer, leave of absence, compensation, and training.” (Emphasis added)
This proposed ordinance seems absolutely unnecessary in light of the fact that Little Rock already has this policy in place. With that in mind, it is unclear exactly what the City of Little Rock hopes to accomplish.