Most Influential 2015: Justin P. Nichols

Nichols, center, from the Out In SA Winter 2015 photo shoot. Photo by Bryan Rindfuss.

Many readers may recognize Justin P. Nichols as the cover model for last year’s inaugural issue of this magazine. However, it is his advocacy as an attorney that brought him to local prominence.

In January 2014, Nichols filed the first complaint under the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance claiming AT&T fired his client, Matthew Hileman, because of his gender identity. In his claim, Hileman said he was unjustly terminated after reporting incidents that constituted a hostile workplace.

From the first day the claim was filed, Nichols says he was hampered by the city’s lack of procedural guidelines for claimants under the new law. Last April, he finally struck a deal with AT&T saying only the case has been settled “to the satisfaction of all parties.”

At the time, Nichol’s offered criticism of the ordinance. “The NDO is broken and does not offer any protection for contract employees,” he said. He added Mayor Ivy Taylor’s office showed no interest in helping Hileman work through his claim. In an interview, Nichols said the settlement with AT&T owed nothing to the nondiscrimination ordinance which he said offered no remedy to claimants that they didn’t already have before it was was approved by the City Council.

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