It appears Orange County’s LGBT employment protections are safe for now.
On Sept. 11, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) discussed a pair of proposals that would regulate sick leave, and some feared would have had a negative effect on LGBT employee protections that are currently in place.
In August, Citizens for a Greater Orange County collected more than 50,000 petition signatures for a referendum on Nov. 6 that, if approved by voters, would require many employers to provide paid sick time.
In response, Commissioner Jennifer Thompson presented a competing ballot question, a charter amendment that would block the sick-time measure and possibly bar all county laws that regulate employer/employee protections – including the Human Rights Ordinance (HRO), which protects against LGBT discrimination from employers.
The public hearing lasted for more than six hours but in the end, the commissioners unanimously rejected the sick pay petition for the November ballot, saying that the ordinance’s title and wording were unclear.
They also elected to postpone Thompson’s amendment.
“Commissioner Jennifer Thompson, who proposed the amendment, acknowledged that she was deluged by hundreds of complaints from the LGBT community, and agreed to eliminate the retroactive provision, which would save the HRO from being repealed,” said local attorney and LGBT activist Mary Meeks in an email to Watermark. “However, I was extremely disappointed that she completely disregarded all of our suggestions for mitigating the potential prospective harm to our community.”
Meeks said Thomas “needlessly sacrificed any future prospect of an Equal Benefits Ordinance, or of any other potential anti-discriminatory measures.”
She added that she was disappointed to see Thompson attempt to move forward with her ordinance even after the sick leave petition was rejected and had to be “talked down from the ledge by the Mayor and her fellow Commissioners,” who argued that the charter amendment needed more vetting and review.