After previous efforts that failed in 2012 and 2016, the City of Jacksonville, Florida has now passed an expanded human rights ordinance (“HRO”) that provides employment and housing protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

This time around the City Council addressed several issues that created hurdles during the prior efforts to expand the HRO.

  • First, sexual orientation and gender identity are defined in the HRO;
  • Second, gender identity must be demonstrated in a “consistent and uniform” manner and be sincerely held, not asserted for “improper, illegal or criminal purpose”.

These two provisions are designed to address the scenario, much discussed in the news, where a man dresses up as a woman solely to invade the women’s restroom for nefarious purposes.

35571133 - jacksonville, florida, usa city skyline on st. johns river.

  • Third, addressing the locker room issue, the HRO states that businesses can still provide single sex facilities for anything that is, by its nature, a private facility, like a single-sex bathroom.  Businesses will not be required to change any existing signage or retrofit any existing facility.
  • Fourth, dress codes are also allowed under this bill, but cannot be based on “sex stereotype”- meaning a business cannot tell a secretary to wear a skirt if she’s female (if your dress code requires women to wear skirts or high heels or makeup, you are already asking for trouble).  Rather, the dress code would require the secretary to be dressed professionally.

Additionally, the City of Jacksonville provided carve outs for religious institutions and small businesses.

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Befuddled by bathroom litigation, I’ve written several posts on bathroom access and employment litigation regarding bathroom access.  See my posts here (OSHA guidance on bathroom access), here (EEOC settlement of litigation which included bathroom access claims), here (11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned summary judgment in favor of employer in discrimination claim that involved restroom access), here (addressing Houston’s bathroom access ordinance) and here (litigation involving Hobby Lobby that included restroom access claims).

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Dori K. Stibolt is a partner with the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP.  Dori defends and counsels management in labor and employment litigation matters pertaining to wage and overtime claims, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, leave/restraint, and whistle-blower claims.  You can contact Dori at 561-804-4417 or dstibolt@foxrothschild.com.