Houston Business Journal:
If Houston businesses are concerned about the potential unintended consequences of Mayor Annise Parker’s Equal Rights ordinance, they should look to the Americans with Disabilities Act, said Stephen J. Roppolo, a regional managing partner and employment law attorney at Fisher and Phillips.
“All of us were concerned that 40 million people were going to be declared disabled,” Roppolo said. “There were some jokes at legal seminars that were only half jokes that claimed, ‘If you’re follicly challenged, you’re disabled.” The net result of ADA, Roppolo said, “was not nearly as bad — as expansive — as everyone thought.”
Michael A. McCabe is an employment law attorney at Munck Wilson Mandala in Dallas, which has already passed a local ordinance similar to the one proposed by Parker. McCabesees the Houston proposal, in short, as “a non-issue.”
“Because it’s illegal to discriminate against someone because of their gender, gender identity is already covered,” by current law, including Title VII, McCabe said.
“Title VII already provides much greater protection that the Houston ordinance,” he said. Furthermore, “I don’t see this ordinance giving people an avenue to bring new types of claims against Houston employers. Certainly not claims that will result in damages.”
McCabe noted that violations under Parker’s proposal will be classified as class C misdemeanors.
“The most you can get fined is $5,000,” McCabe said. “I don’t see lawyers spending a lot of time bringing these cases.”
Roppolo reiterated his view that he sees so-called familial issues as much more of a new area of law than the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender provisions of Parker’s proposal. He gave a hypothetical of a male employee…