Another Milestone: Twin Falls adds “sexual orientation” to Employee Policy

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In yet another historic moment for Idaho’s gay community, the Twin Falls City Council approved a motion Monday night to include sexual orientation in its city employee anti-harassment and discrimination policies.

The issue was raised in December by Councilwoman Rebecca Mills-Sojka, during a discussion over the city’s new employee handbook.

After a brief statement by Assistant City Manager Mike Williams, who said the city already has a zero tolerance policy on harassment and discrimination, council members spent the next 45 minutes or so debating the motion.

Vice-mayor Don Hall said he believed the city’s policy was already adequate and changing it would be little more then an “exercise in political correctness.”

Councilwoman Suzanne Hawkins agreed with Hall. She told the other members that she wondered where to draw the line. “What happens to the next group who comes to us and wants protection? Who is going to be allowed next?”, asked Hawkins

Councilwoman  Hawkins said she called Saint Luke’s, one of the state’s largest employers, and asked about its non-discrimination policy. Saint Luke’s told her that while Saint Luke’s Magic Valley hospital DOES currently include sexual orientation and gender identity in its non-discrimination policy, the Boise- based health care system itself does not.

Hawkins said Saint Luke’s officials were currently in the process of taking the language out of the Twin Falls hospital’s policy in order to prevent  “problems”.

Councilman Chris Talkington responded that he wasn’t worried about “the next group, ” To me this is about showing a group that makes up ten or eleven percent of our population more sensitivity.”

Councilman and Chamber of Commerce President Shawn Barigar agreed, “This isn’t about affording additional rights to folks that they don’t have now;  this is about being sensitive to, understanding and recognizing a group of citizens who live within our community.”

“We do have an issue with bullying, we do have an issue excepting people that are different, it’s just more of a statement on not treating people differently regardless of their sexual orientation,” Mills-Sojka explained early on in the debate.

She also pointed out that the policy only affects city employees and

When Barigar asked about including gender identity language to the policy as well, Mills-Sojka said she felt that the policy’s current wording was sufficient in covering gender discrimination.

In the end, the council voted 5 to 2 to approve the motion with Mayor Greg Lanting and Councilman Jim Munn also casting yes votes.

City Manager Travis Rothweiler said the change would go into effect immediately. He said his staff would be making changes to the city’s employee handbook and other pertinent documents.

Last night’s vote comes on the heals of  major LGBT community victories in Boise and Sandpoint, which now include sexual orientation and gender identity in  broader city wide non-discrimination ordinances.  Other cities in Idaho are considering similar measures.

You can watch a full video of the debate and vote HERE.

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2 Responses to Another Milestone: Twin Falls adds “sexual orientation” to Employee Policy

  1. Emi says:

    Councilperson Mills-Sojka clearly doesn’t understand the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity or gender expression. Sigh

  2. Pingback: Two in one Week: Lewiston adds sexual orientation language to city policy « The Idaho Agenda

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