Non-discrimination vote concerns some Augusta business owners

Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 7:15 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - On Tuesday, Augusta city leaders are expected to pass an ordinance to protect you from discrimination.

The idea is to fine businesses that treat customers unfairly based on things like race, religion, gender identity, military status and more.

Commissioners are expected to pass the ordinance, but not everyone is on board.

Some commissioners did not support the ordinance’s first draft in March because some businesses were concerned about unfair complaints. It’s on the table for Tuesday and still, some owners downtown are still worried a customer or employee might make a false allegation.

“When we hire, or when we fire, it’s not because of your color, it’s not because of who you sleep with,” said Patricia Slagle.

Slagle has ran Flowers on Broad for seven years. She says she’s never heard of any businesses facing discrimination complaints downtown. That’s why a new discrimination ordinance comes to her as a surprise.

“Certainly if we follow the federal guidelines, we shouldn’t have any type of problems,” she said.

Augusta’s non-discrimination ordinance will expand federal protections to protect people from discrimination at small businesses. It’ll charge a businesses an initial $500 fee for violation and $1,000 fees for future violations. Slagle’s concern is that people will take advantage of it.

“If it’s always in the back of your mind, that you can always sue there are people out there that will do that, whether you have reason to or not,” she said.

But will they? At least 12 other cities in Georgia have similar ordinances. We reached out to Savannah and Brookhaven who both adopted theirs in 2020 since then they’ve had exactly zero complaints filed.

“If we’re not planning on using it and if you don’t think it’s going to be a problem then we don’t really need it do we?” said Slagle.

In a meeting, the Augusta Compliance Department which will handle all ordinance complaints says they do get discrimination complaint calls now but most can’t go forward.



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