City Council removes age from discrimination protections as unintended consequences arise

Tuesday, January 3, 2012 | 8:43 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — The Columbia City Council amended a city ordinance during its Tuesday night meeting to remove age as a protected category against discrimination.

This has no impact on discrimination protections related to employment, Mayor Bob McDavid said. 

About a month ago, the council passed a bill making discrimination based on gender identity illegal in the city as it relates to housing, employment and public accommodation. As part of that bill, Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe suggested adding age as a protected category.

Once this protection was added, it had unintended consequences, according to city documents. For instance, city golf courses couldn't offer different rates to people of different age. A single season golf pass for any day play costs $178 for players under 18, while $427 for those over 59 and $534 for the rest.

Those different prices were illegal after age became a protected category. City staff also pointed out that the existing city code, federal law and state law already protect against age discrimination in employment.

An amended skateboarding bill passed at the Nov. 21 City Council meeting requires any person age 15 or under to wear a helmet while they skateboard. This would have also been an illegal form of age discrimination.

"Sometimes we do want to discriminate based on age," City Manager Mike Matthessaid.

Other items in the protected category against discrimination include: race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, marital status, handicap, sexual orientation or gender identity.

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