Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Brody's Notes... Memphis City Council Fails To Provide LGBT Workplace Protections For Its Employees

TEP Shelby County Vice Chair Latoya Belgrave and Chair Jonathan Cole
By Brody Levesque (Washington DC) NOV 24 | The Memphis City Council welcomes visitors to its web home page with these words:
Our Fellow Memphians: This is an exciting time to be a Memphian. Our city is on the move. Building on our heritage, working together, we've made great strides in recent years. From Downtown to Midtown to East Memphis, from Frayser to Whitehaven, Memphians share a pride in our past and a faith in our future.
According to Jonathan Cole, Shelby County Chairman of the Tennessee Equality Project,  those above words ring hollow after last night’s Memphis City Council second reading of the Employment Non-Discrimination Ordinance.. The ENDO fell one vote short of the seven needed due to the withdrawal of support from Chairman Harold Collins. Collins’ reversal ensured that the ENDO cannot return to the council’s agenda for six months. Council Chairman Collins and Councilors Boyd, Conrad, Hedgepeth, Brown, Collins, and Morrison have essentially voted that discrimination against City employees based on SOGIE should remain legal in Memphis.
The ENDO appeared as the only item in the Council’s Consent Agenda for second reading. The vote occurred as follows:
Yes: Halbert, Strickland, Ford, Lowery, Fullilove, and Flinn.
No: Boyd, Conrad, Hedgepeth
Abstained: None
No vote recorded: Brown, Collins, Morrison
Suspended: Swearengen Ware
The TEP Chairman noted today:
Our City Government has made it official: inequality in the workplace is acceptable and legal. This message will resonate outside City Hall. The decision will affect employee recruitment and retention in City Hall and private businesses in Memphis. Who wants to live in a community that does not value diversity in its workforce and community?
Despite yesterday’s vote, the City of Memphis Department of Human Resources will complete a study of discrimination in employment in every division of the city to include mistreatment based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression (SOGIE). If the study is fairly designed and implemented, the results will shed light on the problem that many of our City Council members have chosen to ignore. How will they respond to internal employee data that demonstrates LGBT discrimination? We’ll have to wait at least 6 months to find out.
Media and other organizations have given Memphis poor ratings for quality of life and business friendly environment indices. Forbes Magazine ranked Memphis #3 on its “America’s Most Miserable Cities” index. Just hours before the ENDO vote, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research ranked Memphis last among the state's 50 largest communities in a list of business-friendly cities. 
Cole observed that "rather than stem the tide of bad news, the Memphis City Council added yet another heavy yoke to the shoulders of Memphis."
He added:
"I also encourage everyone to take a moment to give thanks for the equality advocates on the Memphis City Council who supported equality without fail: Janis Fullilove, Shea Flinn, Wanda Halbert, Jim Strickland, Edmund Ford, Jr., and Myron Lowery.
It’s also appropriate to tell the remaining members of the Memphis City Council that you will remember their failure to support equality in Memphis."