Proposed Non-Discrimination Ordinance

Merriam City Council is in the process of considering a non-discrimination ordinance that would prohibit discrimination in the City of Merriam in employment, housing, and public accommodations on the basis of an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity. In addition, the ordinance would provide a complaint and enforcement process.

On Dec. 10, 2018, City Council discussed a draft version of the ordinance and moved the item forward for possible final action on Jan. 14, 2019. City Council heard public comment on Dec. 10, 2018, and will also take public comment on Jan. 14, 2019.

All meeting materials, including any draft ordinances, will be available on this page and will be updated periodically as we move through the process. If you have questions or would like to provide your feedback, please contact City Administrator Chris Engel at 913-322-5511 or cengel@merriam.org.


City Council Meeting Materials

NDO DRAFT #1 - Dec. 10, 2018 
NDO Action Form prepared by city attorney - Dec. 10, 2018
DRAFT minutes from Dec. 10, 2018 City Council Meeting
POSTCARD Mailed to all effected businesses and landlords
NDO DRAFT #2 (redline) – Jan. 14, 2019
NDO Action Form prepared by city attorney – Jan. 14, 2019


Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the intent of a Non-Discrimination Ordinance?
Local, state, and federal laws provide protection against discrimination against certain classes of persons in housing and state and federal laws provide protection against discrimination against certain classes of individuals in employment and public accommodations. Those protections are afforded on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin or ancestry, sex, disability, marital status, familial status, and veteran status.

The intent of a local non-discrimination ordinance would seek to provide the state and federal protections already afforded to certain individuals to two additional categories – sexual orientation and gender identity. The goal would be to communicate that all people living, working, and transacting business in Merriam are worthy of respect and fair treatment. The ordinance would also create a local enforcement process for complaints of discrimination.

2. Who does the Non-Discrimination Ordinance protect?
The ordinance would provide an individual with protection from certain discriminatory acts on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Sexual orientation means an individual’s perceived or actual emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to other people. It can be described as, but not limited to, heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or asexual. Gender identity means the actual or perceived gender-related identity, expression, appearance, or mannerisms, or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, regardless of the individual’s designated sex at birth.

3. Who must comply with the Ordinance?
The ordinance would provide uniform legal protection to individuals in all of the classes listed above, making it unlawful to discriminate in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

As currently proposed, any person within the City limits who has four or more employees, who sells real estate or rents housing with more than four units, or who offers goods, services, facilities, or accommodations to the public must comply with the ordinance. This would include the City of Merriam. Religious organizations and nonprofit fraternal or social associations/corporations are exempt from parts of the ordinance.

4. What are some examples of public accommodations?
A public accommodation is any establishment within the city that is open to the public and offers any product, service, or facility. For example, any restaurant, bar, salon, grocery store, gas station, photography service, rental venue, retail store, medical, or business office open to the public would be considered a public accommodation.

The non-discrimination ordinance prohibits an establishment from discriminating against a patron or customer based on one or more of that person’s protected characteristics. Specifically, an establishment cannot deny any individual the full and equal enjoyment of the establishment’s goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations on the basis of any protected characteristic. An establishment is not permitted to exclude, refuse to provide services, offer lesser services, or disadvantage a person because of any of the characteristics protected by the ordinance.

5. How would a Non-Discrimination Ordinance affect restrooms and changing facilities?
A question about an individual’s use of a particular restroom or changing facility may arise in employment or public accommodations. It may be an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer to mandate that an employee use a restroom or changing facility consistent with the employee's biological sex rather than gender identity. Likewise, a public accommodation may offer a restroom or changing facility to be used by patrons or the general public. Again, it may be an unlawful discriminatory practice to mandate that an individual use a restroom or changing facility consistent with the individual’s biological sex rather than gender identity.

The ordinance wouldn't require the elimination of separate men’s and women’s facilities, nor would it require an employer or establishment to provide new or special restroom facilities, locker rooms, or other changing facilities, although it may choose to do so to accommodate the privacy of its customers. However, an employer or establishment may not prohibit a transgender person from using the restroom or locker room consistent with the gender identified or expressed by that individual.

The ordinance wouldn't permit or excuse inappropriate or unlawful activity. The ordinance protects the legitimate use of facilities for transgender persons; it's not an excuse to misuse the law for criminal purposes or even for reasons of convenience.

6. What would the ordinance allow me to do if I believe I have been discriminated against?
If an ordinance is adopted and you believe that you have been discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, you or your attorney may complete a complaint form and submit it to the City. A parent or legal guardian may file on behalf of a minor.

If you believe that you have been discriminated against on the basis of race, sex, familial status, veteran status, disability, religion, age, color, national origin or ancestry, there may be other complaints/investigatory processes available to you or your attorney through the EEOC or the Kansas Human Rights Commission.

7. If a complaint is filed, then what happens?
The details of an enforcement process for Merriam are still under consideration, but it's anticipated that the City’s investigator will review the information provided by each party and gather more evidence as needed. Then the investigator will determine whether probable cause exists that discrimination occurred. If probable cause is found, the investigator will try to resolve the issue with the complaining party and the respondent. If the issue isn't resolved, it may proceed to a hearing officer. If probable cause isn't found, then the investigator will notify the parties and the complaint will be resolved.

8. Is this a crime?
No. A finding that you committed an unlawful act of discrimination isn't a crime. A finding that you committed an unlawful act of discrimination is a civil violation that doesn't impact your criminal record in any way.

9. Can a complaint be filed against a person who makes an offensive comment or gesture toward someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity?
No. Being rude, offensive, or insulting toward an individual based on any characteristic is, on its own, not an act of discrimination under the proposed ordinance. To commit an unlawful discriminatory practice, a person must deny individual rights or privileges in employment, housing, or public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. If a person, in conjunction with an unlawful discriminatory practice, is rude, offensive, or insulting toward that individual, it can be used as evidence during the complaint process.