OMAHA, NE – Less than a year ago, the Omaha City Council passed an ordinance passed an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment and public accommodations. The ordinance is currently in full effect, but literature from Omaha’s Human Rights and Relations Department is not yet updated to include sexual orientation and gender identity, so just because you don’t see it on the brochure doesn’t mean it isn’t covered. IT IS COVERED!
This is a basic overview of Civil Rights in Omaha dealing with Employment Discrimination. What is employment discrimination? Omaha law prohibits unfair or unequal treatment in employment practices and policies such as:
- Job advertisement
- Hiring practice (application forms, interviews, selection)
- Referral by employment agencies
- Salary, job classification, work duties, working conditions and fringe benefits
- Promotion, demotion, suspension, layoff, recall or termination
*Exemptions include religious or denominational organizations who may give preference to individuals of the same religion for certain types of jobs.
The unfair act must be based on a person’s: Race, Sex, National Origin, Creed, Religion, Disability, Color, Marital Status, Age, Retaliation, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity.
Who is regulated?
- Employers, with six or more employees, located in the City of Omaha.
- Employment agencies and placement services.
- Labor organizations.
Job applications and interviews. The law prohibits pre-employment practices or policies which:
- Ask information from applicants (prior to employment) concerning the applicant’s race, sex, national origin, age, religion, color, creed, disability, marital status, sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Result in the disproportionate screening out of members of such protected groups.
- Are not relevant to successful job performance.
It is the employer’s right to establish job related requirements and to seek the most qualified individual for the job. Therefore, the employer should only ask those questions necessary to determine the applicant’s eligibility for employment. Examples of prohibited pre-employment questions include:
- Are you married?
- What church do you attend?
- How many children do you have?
- What year did you graduate from high school?
- What is your native language?
Employees with disabilities.
The law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for a qualified employee with a disability. An accommodation is reasonable if it does not impose an undue hardship on the employer’s business. Examples of reasonable accommodations are:
- Job restructuring or job sharing.
- Adjustments to the work environment, such as raising desks to accommodate wheelchairs.
- Providing qualified readers, interpreters or assistants.
The law prohibits employers from a failing to hire an applicant because she is pregnant, or discharging or penalizing an employee in the terms, conditions and privileges of employment because she is pregnant.
1. Employers must make “reasonable accommodations” such as: allowing the pregnant employee to sit, instead of stand, while working; excusing from or providing assistance for lifting tasks; allowing time off for doctor’s appointments.
2. Employers are also required to provide leave, with or without pay, for a reasonable period of time for disabilities due to and resulting from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. A “reasonable period of time” is that determined by the employee’s physician with regard to her physical condition and her specific job requirements.
3. Such employees have return rights to their original jobs or to positions of comparable status and pay (without loss of accumulated service credits and privileges).
The law requires employers to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious practices unless an undue hardship would result. Two examples of accommodating religious practices are:
- Allowing the employee to observe a religious holiday by trading work days with a voluntary, qualified co-employee.
- Granting flexible work schedules.
Sexual harassment at the workplace.
The law defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other visual, verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature. This may include many forms of offensive behavior such as:
- Unwanted sexual advances Offering jobs, promotions or benefits in exchange for sexual favors.
- Threatening to demote, fire or withhold benefits if an employee protests, refuses or ignores sexual advances.
- Unwanted leering, making sexual gestures or displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, cartoons and posters.
- Unwanted derogatory comments, slurs, jokes, suggestive or obscene letters or notes.
- Unwanted touching, assault, impeding, or blocking of movement.
Employers are liable for acts of sexual harassment committed by themselves, their agents or supervisory employees. They are also liable for sexual harassment committed by other employees or non-employees, if they know, or should have known, of the conduct and fail to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.
**Most of the information in this article is taken directly from a pamphlet from Omaha’s Human Rights and Relations Department. I just included sexual orientation and gender identity because the current pamphlets are not yet updated. However, if there are any inconsistencies, the rules, Omaha City ordinance and Nebraska law will control.
For more information on your rights and other aspects of employment discrimination you can contact the City of Omaha Human Rights and Relations Department at 402-444-5055.
Omaha Douglas Civic Center
1819 Farnam St. Suite 502
Omaha, Nebraska 68183