Non-Discrimination Ordinance

In January 2019, the Merriam City Council approved a non-discrimination ordinance that prohibits 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 provides a complaint and enforcement process.

Read the entire non-discrimination ordinance.


Protection Provided

This ordinance provides 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.

The ordinance provides uniform legal protection to individuals in all of the classes listed above, making it unlawful to discriminate in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

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. Religious organizations and nonprofit fraternal or social associations/corporations are exempt from parts of the ordinance.

Read Frequently Asked Questions


To File a Complaint

If you believe that you have been discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, and/or public accommodations, you or your attorney may complete a complaint form and submit it to the City Clerk. 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

Filing a complaint for an alleged violation of this ordinance will in no way preclude any individual from seeking other relief under state or federal law.

Enforcement Process

Please see the full non-discrimination ordinance for specific details on process and enforcement. A generalized summary of the enforcement process is provided below:

  • An individual who believes they have been discriminated against under this ordinance has 60 days from the date of the alleged incident to file a complaint form with the City Clerk.
  • Once the City receives the form, the investigator assigned to the complaint will contact the respondent (person(s) the complaint is against) and give them 30 days to file a written answer to the complaint.
  • After receiving the answer and conducting any additional investigation, the investigator will make a determination whether probable cause exists that the respondent(s) committed an unlawful discriminatory practice. If the investigator finds that probable cause does not exist, they will notify both parties and no further action will be taken by the City. If the investigator determines probable cause does exist, the investigator will notify both parties and request conciliation and settlement.
  • If conciliation and settlement are not reached, the matter will be referred to a hearing officer who will hear the complaint. If the hearing officer finds that a violation of this ordinance has occurred, the hearing officer may award the complainant actual damages or a civil penalty in the amount of $1,000, whichever is greater.


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


2. Who does the Non-Discrimination Ordinance protect?

The ordinance provides 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 provides uniform legal protection to individuals in all of the classes listed above, making it unlawful to discriminate in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

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 includes 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 is 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 does the 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 doesn’t require the elimination of separate men’s and women’s facilities, nor does 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 doesn’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 do I do if I believe I have been discriminated against?

If 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 Clerk. 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. 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 this 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.