Mission Hills adopts non-discrimination ordinance with legal protections for LGBTQ individuals

Barbar Nelson
Councilmember Barbara Nelson cited some concerns with liability for the city based on its hiring of contractors, but said the ordinance was “the right thing to do.”

Mission Hills on Monday became the seventh city in the Shawnee Mission area to pass a non-discrimination ordinance that provides legal protections for individuals on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Mission Hills passage of the ordinance comes a month after Westwood Hills adopted its own non-discrimination ordinance.

The ordinance applies to any employers in the city with four or more employees, city hall and related city boards, and any city contractors. It does not apply to religious organizations or social organizations, including the two country clubs in the city — Mission Hills Country Club and Kansas City Country Club. The ordinance applies on any property that offers products, services or facilities to the public.

The council last night unanimously approved the ordinance after discussion in which some councilmembers asked for clarification on a few items. Councilmember Andy Weed said he’s only heard positive feedback from residents in support of the ordinance.

Councilmember Barbara Nelson pointed out that the city is the only employer to which the ordinance would apply, because it has nine employees, but she also had concerns about how the ordinance applies to contractors working with the city.

“I’m just trying to think of how we might be liable,” Nelson said, citing concerns that the city would be liable because it now contracts with food trucks.

“It’s the right thing to do,” she added.

City Administrator Courtney Christensen said the ordinance applies to contractors; by placing the nondiscriminatory language in a contract, the city would not be liable for a contractor’s actions, she added.

City Administrator Courtney Christensen

“If they’re going to work for the city and get paid with city funds, they are going to meet this requirement,” Christensen said. “And if by having it in our contract, it protects us even more because we’re saying, ‘We told you that this was important to us, and this is a reason for us to cancel our contract.’”

Richard Cook, the city’s legal counsel with Stinson, Leonard, Street LLP, said the city remains under other state anti-discrimination laws and will only need to investigate and enforce city code as it pertains to sexual orientation and gender identity.

City staff said they drafted Mission Hills’s ordinance to model those adopted by Prairie Village and Merriam. Similar to the processes in those cities, a complaint of discrimination related to the ordinance will be addressed and investigated by the city. Any fees charged by the investigator will be split between the aggrieved individual and respondent unless the investigator determines otherwise.

The hearing officer may award the aggrieved individual damages or a civil penalty of $1,000, whichever amount is greater.

The wrap-up discussion leading up to the vote took less than 10 minutes, although the council had been deliberating for months on the scope and enforcement of the ordinance.