Wednesday, May 14, 2014

First LGBT NDO Complaint Filed, Questions Over Process Arise

Posted By on Wed, May 14, 2014 at 6:10 PM

Eight months following the passage of the long-debated LGBT non-discrimination ordinance, the city has received its first complaint, according to an affidavit obtained by Texas Public Radio.

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The NDO debate at City Hall. Photo by Mary Tuma.

Matthew Hileman, a transgender man and former contract employee with AT&T, alleges he overheard fellow employees expressing their desire to commit violent acts toward transgender individuals. Distressed, Hileman reported the incident. Supervisors aware of the complaint then revealed Hileman’s gender identity status, spurring a hateful act.

Hileman says he discovered a sign at his desk a few days later that read, “No fags” with a strikethrough. He then left work, fearful of his safety, TPR reported.

AT&T defended the allegations, citing their strict discrimination policies. “We took Mr. Hileman’s allegations very seriously and carefully investigated, and we’re cooperating with the city. But our investigation was unable to substantiate his allegations,” said AT&T spokesperson Marty Richter.

While the NDO is now city policy and meant to aid these exact cases, Hileman’s attorney, Justin Nichols, said he found it difficult to file a complaint, especially regarding where to send the grievance. The City Attorney’s office (who eventually agreed to accept the complaint) say they’ve been mostly focused on the ordinance language and, as a result, admit the filing process has been slowed down.

And while the city said it would respond to AT&T if they found any wrongdoing, the major telecomm company failed to do so, leaving Hileman and his attorney wondering what the city will do next.

"I think that this is a good test to see what the NDO is made of, if it's going to do what it was intended to do; that the hours and hours and thousands of people who weighed in that the ultimate decision that was made will actually be given effect," Nichols told the radio station.

Passed in September, the ordinance grants gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents the same protections as their heterosexual counterparts when it comes to job hiring, firing, public accommodations, housing and city employment and contracts as well as board and commission appointments by adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the city’s anti-discrimination code.

Debate over a similar ordinance is now waging in Houston, Texas.

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