Tuesday, August 19, 2014

West Palm Beach approves same-sex benefit requirements for contractors

By Eliot Kleinberg - Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

WEST PALM BEACH — It’s official. Contractors and people who do at least $50,000 in business with the city must offer equal family benefits to all employees, including those in same-sex relationships.

The city commission Monday voted 5-0, becoming the first public employer in Palm Beach County to impose the rule.

The rule covers businesses with five or more employees. Exceptions: companies that provide no benefits to employees’ spouses or dependents; government entities, contracts for sale or lease of property, emergency contracts, and provisions that would violate grant requirements or federal or state laws or rules.

The city also could waive compliance if it gets only one bidder, or determines no bidders can comply with the domestic partners rule, or decides at a public meeting that imposing the requirement would result in the city not getting the best value.

The commission had voted 3-2 on the first reading, on Aug. 4, with commissioners Kimberly Mitchell and Shanon Materio opposed. Both had said they supported the rule in principle. Mitchell worried about the idea of the city demanding something. She said she’d rather reward businesses by giving credit in bid considerations to those who provide the benefits. She also worried about imposing rules on local offices of national companies.

Mayor Jeri Muoio said had said a survey of the companies that do business with the city found that “there would be little effect” because nearly all businesses already meet, or are exempt from, the rule. Materio had wanted to study that survey .

“The more elected officials learn about the benefits of encouraging city contractors to provide equal benefits to the families of their their lesbian and gay employees, the more they understand the importance of treating everyone fairly,” said Rand Hoch, president and founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.

The local non-profit organization has pushed numerous local public employers to enact more than 75 laws and policies providing equal benefits for employees in nontraditional families.

Similar ordinances have been approved by the Broward County Commission; the Broward towns of Hallandale Beach, Oakland Park and Wilton Manors; and the cities of Key West and Miami Beach.


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