Georgian law prohibits private employers from discriminating against workers based on age, disability and gender (especially wage-based entitlements) .1 However, there are no state laws prohibiting private employers from discriminating against workers based on the other categories traditionally protected by the Civil Rights Act from 1964 (“Title VII”), ie race, skin color, gender (in the broader sense), national origin and religion. In the absence of this protection, six Georgia cities recently enacted ordinances prohibiting discrimination based on categories protected by Title VII and others, including gender identity and sexual orientation.

Atlanta was the only community in the state for nearly 20 years to prohibit discrimination in private employment, including on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.2 However, within the past two years, the cities of Dunwoody, Chamblee, Doraville, Decatur, and now Clarkston Brookhaven have their own anti-discrimination protection in place.3 To date, Georgia has not passed any laws protecting LGBTQ + people from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace.

As mentioned earlier, on January 14, 2020, the city of Brookhaven became the last city in the Atlanta area to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance that includes gender identity and sexual orientation as protected categories.4 The ordinance, which adopts the “principle of being friendly, welcoming and encouraging for businesses its “5 and promotes its goal of” building its leadership role in the Metro Atlanta area … on civil rights and the recognition of the rights of all its citizens “6 prohibits any natural or legal person” employing workers “. one or more employees in the City of Brookhaven ”from“ subjecting any person to a different treatment based on their actual or perceived race, skin color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, marital status ”, family or veteran status. ”7 The law came into full force on February 13, 2020.8

The Georgia city bylaws describe nearly identical complaint and arbitration procedures

Brookhaven’s law gives it power to investigate complaints of discrimination filed within 90 calendar days of the alleged act.9 Similarly, the towns of Dunwoody, Chamblee, Doraville, Decatur, and Clarkston require their employees to report their complaints within 6010 or 90 Days to submit. 11

After filing a timely complaint, the Brookhaven and Doraville parties have the opportunity to submit to a non-binding private mediation, sharing the costs equally. 12

Clarkston’s mediation program is also voluntary, but the city pays two hours of a mediator’s fees and shares all subsequent fees and costs between the complainant and the defendant unless they agree to a different arrangement.13 Decatur also allows the Parties are free to choose whether to mediate and the city bears the fees and costs incurred by the mediator for a maximum of six hours. 14

In contrast, at Chamblee and Dunwoody, mediation is voluntary for the defendant; “However, the case will be dismissed if the complainant is absent or [fail to] Provide a valid reason for not participating. ”15 So while these cities claim that participation in mediation is voluntary, in practice it appears that mediation is compulsory for complainants. In particular, neither Chamblee nor Dunwoody city ordinances specify how the agency fees and costs should be shared between the parties if the agency is successful; however, the prevailing party in the post-mediation process (explained below) is entitled to a retrospective award of its mediation fees and costs.

Brookhaven and Clarkston’s civil sentences take a hit while other Georgia cities hand out tiny fines

If the mediation is unsuccessful, each city allows the employer to respond to the worker’s complaint (after confirming that the complaint meets the filing requirements) 16 and have a hearing or trial in the local court.17 The parties provide evidence and the appointed Hearing officers or the judge at the municipal court have a provision. 18

In Brookhaven, the first and second violations of the regulation result in civil penalties of $ 1,000 and $ 2,000, respectively.19 However, after a third violation, the regulation requires that “[a]Any company fined three (3) times will lose their right to operate in the City of Brookhaven. ”20 Thus, Brookhaven employers risk a complete shutdown after repeated violations of the regulation. Significantly, the law does not deal with how an employer can restore their business license – except through objection, as discussed in more detail below.

In Decatur, the first violation by an employer results in a fine of $ 500 and $ 1,000 for all subsequent violations, 21 while Doraville limits civil penalties against employers to just $ 500 per violation, with no increased fines for repeated violations .22 Findings of a violation at Dunwoody and Chamblee result in a civil penalty of $ 500 for the first violation, $ 1,000 for subsequent violations, and a mediator and hearing officer fee set against the unsuccessful party, unless , the Hearing Officer decides that alternative costing is warranted. 23

In addition, the Chamblee ordinance allows the Hearing Officer to recommend the suspension or revocation of a company’s business tax certificate rather than a fine for a final vote by the city council

In Clarkston, the enforcement arm of the regulation is unique. If a violation is found, the hearing officer must make two recommendations to the city council.25 First, the hearing officer must recommend a possible voluntary settlement that may include fair remedies or a civil sanction of no more than $ 1,000. Then the hearing officer must also recommend the temporary suspension or revocation of at least one (or more) permits or licenses from the employer.27 An employer can avoid a decision by the city council to suspend or revoke its license (s) by requesting the approval of the Hearing officer accepts settlement proposal or through private agreement with the complainant.28 Otherwise, only a majority decision of the city council is required to resolve the suspension or revocation of one or more business licenses of the respondent.29

In most cities, employers can appeal a violation found

In Brookhaven, Clarkston, Dunwoody and Doraville, employers have 30 days to appeal a determination of a violation to the Superior Court of DeKalb County. 30 In Chamblee, parties have 14 calendar days of the hearing officer’s final decision to appeal to Chamblee City Court . 31 The Decatur regulation does not provide for an appeal.


Employers should be aware that some Georgia cities have local ordinances to protect workers from discrimination based on traits that are not protected by Georgia law, or in some cases expressly protected by federal law. While the regulations provide minimal fines for employers for violating them, some require more severe penalties resulting in business interruption through suspension or revocation of business licenses. Defending or mediating such claims and filing adverse findings can also result in significant costs for employers, depending on the nature of the claims and the number of employees involved. Prudent employers should therefore ensure that managers make sound and unbiased decisions, that employees behave appropriately in the workplace, and that their companies invest in training and other educational opportunities to support good business practices.