Worthington’s proposed nondiscrimination ordinance has been receiving positive feedback from both Worthington City Council and community members, according to Jack Miner, chairman of the Worthington Community Relations Commission.
The ordinance is a way for the community to show its values, Miner said.
The Community Relations Commission, which is made up of nine community members appointed by City Council, has written a first draft of the proposed ordinance.
The draft of the measure is available on the city’s website, worthington.org.
The ordinance is intended to provide protections against discrimination of age, ancestry, color, disability, familial status, gender identity or expression, genetic information, marital status, military status, national origin, race, sex and sexual orientation, said Lori Trego, staff liaison for the Community Relations Commission, personnel director and assistant to the city manager for Worthington.
According to the city’s website, protections would extend to housing, services, employment and “public accommodations” through Worthington. Under the ordinance, those who believe they have been discriminated against could file a “charge” with a Worthington city clerk.
Depending on the circumstances, the Community Relations Commission would proceed with an investigation or recommend a complaint be filed with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to the ordinance. If mediation offered by the Community Relations Commission were unsuccessful, a cease-and-desist order and a fine would be issued by the city.
If someone fails to comply with a cease-and-desist order, the city could charge the respondent with failure to comply with the order, said law director Tom Lindsey. The draft of the ordinance would make it a criminal offense, a first-degree misdemeanor, he said.
This criminal charge could be filed in Worthington Mayor’s Court or Franklin County Municipal Court, Lindsey said. It would be prosecuted similar to any other criminal offense, he said.
Miner said he believes many cases could be solved through the filing and the mediation process.
“Our goal as a city is we want our first step to be mediation,” Miner said.
The city held a Feb. 27 public forum on the ordinance.
Ben Cooper, a Worthington resident, said he was “very proud” the city is considering the ordinance.
“It’s really encouraging and heartening. … It’s really nice for my generation, not that I can speak on behalf of millenials, (and) I think it’s really important in terms of attracting younger folks,” he said.
Other residents asked whether the ordinance would apply to companies in Worthington that are not based there.
Miner said the protections would apply to any business in Worthington.
“A lot of our businesses already had protections for their employees, so for us it became an opportunity from a business development standpoint of, ‘Oh, is this now a hook for us to be able attract new businesses?’ ” he said.
Cooper posed a question about whether the commission considered adding protections for education.
Miner said the Worthington school board has its own anti-discrimination policy, but the commission would consider the suggestion.
Miner said feedback outside of the forum, including from council members and residents, has been positive.
“All of my interactions with them have been not just supportive, but also thinking about it from of a standpoint of how to make it a better piece of legislation,” he said.
Miner said the commission expects to introduce a revised version within the next week, but he does not have a definite timeline. He said this step would determine when the commission formally would introduce the measure to City Council.
He said he expects to give an update to council members later this month or in April.
After that, City Council would hold a public hearing on the ordinance, with a vote during the same meeting, Miner said.