This Week at City Hall

Nov. 22, 2013Council Member Ellen Cohen

Equal Benefits for Same-Sex Spouses of City Employees

Mayor Parker signed an Executive Order to allow the spouses of same-sex City employees to receive benefits identical to those available to the spouses of heterosexual employees. The recent Supreme Court ruling on the unconstitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act prompted several federal agencies – including the Department of Defense and the Internal Revenue Service – to recognize the legality of same-sex marriages, making Houston’s change necessary to ensure all employees are treated equally. City employees who would like to apply for these benefits can contact the Human Resources Department at

On the Agenda

Council adopted an ordinance to deter companies from the non-payment or underpayment of their workers’ earned wages. An estimated $750 million in local wages are lost annually to this practice. The new legal structure will allow the City to scrutinize and sanction those that engage in wage theft. In addition, a database will be created to ensure that the City of Houston, which is one of the largest employers in our city, does not hire firms that have been convicted of wage theft. Complaints of wage theft under City of Houston contracts should be reported to the Office of the Inspector General for investigation.

What’s Happening in the Annex

Council Member Cohen met with representatives from Jewish Family Service (JFS) to discuss ReelAbilities, an annual city-wide film and arts festival dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of Houstonians with disabilities. Hosted by JFS, Memorial Hermann, and other groups, ReelAbilities is the largest festival of its kind in the nation. The 2014 event will run from February 9-13 at venues throughout Houston.