Task force recommends DP benefits, trans protections

Posted on 05 Oct 2009 at 10:03pm
By Tammye Nash | Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

All 20 recommendations get at least conditional approval from Fisseler, some changes already implemented


Jon Nelson

FORT WORTH — The City Manager’s Diversity Task Force on Tuesday, Nov. 2, presented a list of 20 recommendations to the City Council, all of which had some measure of support from City Manager Dale Fisseler.

Eighteen of the recommendations had garnered Fisseler’s "unconditional concurrence," while the remaining two, both of which involve legal and budgetary considerations, earned Fisseler’s support pending further study.

Recommendations requiring action from the council included implementing domestic partner benefits for LGBT city employees and amending the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to include protections based on gender identity.

Assistant City Manager Fernando Costa, who chaired the task force and presented the recommendations to the council, said the city manager’s office is requesting that the question of amending the nondiscrimination ordinance be placed on the agenda for the council’s Tuesday, Nov. 10 meeting.

Fisseler recommended further study to determine the legal and financial feasibility of offering domestic partner benefits, and Costa said the matter has been referred to the city’s health care committee and that the issue should be resolved in time for consideration in the fiscal year 2010 budget.

The second recommendation getting "conditional concurrence" from Fisseler was amending the city’s health insurance policy to cover the cost of gender reassignment surgery and other costs involved in transitioning for transgender employees.

That matter has been referred to the health benefits advisory committee with the recommendation that a decision be reached in time for inclusion in the 2010 budget.

Among the recommendations receiving Fisseler’s full support was that the city institute diversity training for all city employees, with specialized training for police and fire department employees, and that all elected and appointed officials be encouraged to attend optional diversity training sessions.

Mayor Mike Moncrief said he also believes that training is needed for all city employees, and that it is "also appropriate that we as a council, having been elected to represent everyone in this city, lead by example" and go through the diversity training.

His remarks drew praise from gay City Councilmember Joel Burns and from City Councilmember Kathleen Hicks, who represents the district in which Rainbow Lounge is located.

Gay attorney Jon Nelson, a member of the task force and a cofounder of Fairness Fort Worth, also praised Moncrief’s statement, calling it "a clear indication of what Fort Worth is really like."

The task force was formed in July in the wake of the raid by Fort Worth police and agents of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission on the Rainbow Lounge gay bar. The raid ignited outrage from the LGBT community across the country and prompted the police department and the City Council to start looking for ways to improve relations with the city’s LGBT residents.

Hicks said Tuesday that the task force’s work puts Fort Worth ahead of the pack in Texas in terms of LGBT inclusivity.

"A couple of months ago, we experienced a really low moment, but we didn’t try to just sweep it under the rug," Hicks said. Calling the task force’s recommendations "absolutely extraordinary," she added, "We just raised the bar. [Implementing these recommendations] will benefit all our citizens and all who visit here, and show them we really mean it when we say we’re inclusive."

Nelson said Tuesday he was pleased with the recommendations and with the council’s immediate response.

"This committee did more in the past four months than any committee I’ve ever been on in my entire career, and I have been on a lot of committees," Nelson said.

He said the task force, made up of 12 city employees and 14 community leaders, presented the recommendations "with one voice," and that the response by the city manager and city council shows that "this city has the ability to wake up quickly and change dramatically in a short period of time."

Burns, too, applauded the city’s quick response to the concerns raised by the Rainbow Lounge raid.

"The city has stepped up and said that we are committed to making all parts of our city a valued part of this community, and that we are committed to protecting the rights and responsibilities of all our citizens," Burns said. "I am proud of Fort Worth and I am very proud of all the folks that have been part of this process."

Councilmember Jungus Jordan says the recommendations mean that "in Fort Worth, we’re going to give everybody an equal chance," and Councilmember Carter Burdette said "it is important for this council to send a message to our citizens about respect for others."

Moncrief added, "This city doesn’t ignore its problems. We address them head on.

This has been a challenge, but every time we have challenge, we also have an opportunity to make things better.

"I think once again we have stepped up to the plate. It has been a positive procedure," Moncrief said.

CITY MANAGER’S DIVERSITY TASK FORCE RECOMMENDATIONS
The City Manager’s Diversity Task Force presented 20 recommendations to the Fort Worth City Council during the pre-council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Of the 20, 18 received "unconditional concurrence" from City Manager Dale Fisseler and two received "conditional concurrence."  Eight recommendations were for changes in human resources issues, six were for changes in community relations issues and four were for changes in economic development issues.

The Human Resources recommendations were:
• Provide four hours of appropriate training for all city employees within the next five years, and for new employees during their initial probationary period. Provide training separately for police fire and general employees. Seek to train all police, fire and front-line general employees within two years. (City manager concurs. HR department will proceed immediately to develop curriculum and initiate mandatory training programs by April 2010.)

• Provide appropriate training for elected and appointed officials. (City manager concurs. HR department will make training available for elected and appointed officials.)

• Post nondiscrimination language on all job notices and application forms. (City manager concurs. HR Department has incorporated appropriate language into notices and forms.)

• Ask police chief to provide potential recruits with a letter of support for a diverse police force that includes LGBT officers. (City manager concurs. Police chief has agreed to post the letter on the department’s Web site and to include it in recruitment materials by December 2009.)

• Provide all employees with equal access to all employee benefits. (City manager
concurs subject to determination of legal and financial feasibility. Will refer to ad hoc advisory committees on healthcare and pension benefits for recommendation during FY 2010. Will include a Diversity Task Force member on each of these committees.)

• Authorize family leave for LGBT employees with domestic partners. (City manager concurs. HR department will prepare appropriate amendment to Personnel Rules and Regulations.)

• Amend health insurance policy to include coverage for gender reassignment surgery and other treatments for gender identification disorder. (City manager concurs, subject to determination of financial feasibility. Will refer to Health Benefits Advisory Committee for recommendation by January 2010. If needed, will appoint more diverse representation to HBAC.)

• Support establishment of LGBT support group for city employees, similar to Hispanic Leadership Organization. (City manager concurs. HR department will provide advice and assistance as necessary.)
Community relations recommendations include:

• Amend city’s nondiscrimination ordinances to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or gender expression. (City manager concurs. Has been reviewed by the Law Department and recommended by the Human Relations Commission; will place M&C ordinance on Nov. 10 City Council agenda.)

• Seek state legislation to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, consistent with city ordinances. (City manager concurs. Staff will prepare an amendment to the state legislative program and place it on the agenda for a meeting of the City Council’s Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee no later than Jan. 5.)

• Support passage of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act. (City manager concurs. Staff will prepare an amendment to the federal legislative program and place it on the agenda for a meeting the City Council’s Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee no later than Jan. 5.)

• Develop and implement an educational campaign, similar to activities associated with Fair Housing Month and Disability Employment Awareness Month, to increase awareness of the city’s anti-discrimination ordinances. (City manager concurs. The Community Relations Department and Diversity Advisory Committee will work with LGBT groups to develop the campaign for implementation during Gay Pride Month, June 2010.)

• Use public events to promote Fort Worth as an inclusive community. (City manager concurs.)

• Use appropriate media to communicate more effectively with LGBT citizens. (City manager concurs. Community Relations Department will make recommendation by December 2009.)

Economic Development recommendations include:
• Reward businesses that provide equal benefits to all employees. (City manager concurs. Housing and Economic Development will consult with economic development partners to develop a proposed incentive system. Jon Nelson explained that companies would not be penalized for not having partner benefits for LGBT employees, but that those who do offer partner benefits could receive extra incentives.)

• Develop and implement marketing and outreach campaigns to attract LGBT conventions, visitors and public events. (City manager concurs. Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau has already begun the process to include LGBT-specific marketing in its overall campaign.)

• Urge local hospitals to participate in the Healthcare Equality Index survey being conducted by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. (City manager concurs. Staff is already working to communicate with local hospitals about the importance of participating in the survey.)

• Require contracts with city vendors to state explicitly that failure to comply with the city’s anti-discrimination ordinances constitutes contract violation. (City manager concurs. Law Department has incorporated the appropriate language into city contracts.)

• Revise the draft of the 2010 Comprehensive Plan to include the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce, along with other chambers of commerce, as a "cooperating agency," and to include appropriate references to the LGBT community in future editions. (City manager concurs. The Planning and Development Department will prepare appropriate revisions for consideration by the City Plan Commission and the City Council by February 2010, and will include appropriate references to the LGBT community in future comprehensive plans.

The Diversity Task Force will reconvene quarterly, or as needed, in 2010 — beginning in January — to monitor implementation of the recommendations and advise the city manager as needed.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 06, 2009.

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