Fla.: Bill Would Ban Employment Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation

By Rosemarie Lally Feb 23, 2015

A bill has been introduced in both the Florida Senate and House that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender residents from employment discrimination.

The “Florida Competitive Workforce Act” would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected traits against which it would be illegal to discriminate. The list already includes age, color, handicap, marital status, national origin, race, religion, and sex.

The bill was introduced by a bipartisan team: Senate Bill (S.B.) 156 was introduced by Sen. Joe Abruzzo, D-Wellington, and House Bill (H.B.) 33 was introduced by Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo. In December 2014, the Senate bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration while the House bill was referred to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Justice.

Although same-sex marriage is legal in Florida, protections against job discrimination only exist in counties and cities where local governments have enacted anti-discrimination laws. Such laws have been passed by 29 municipal and county governments in the state, mostly in South Florida.

Similar bills have been introduced in the Florida legislature over the past eight years only to die in committee, but supporters hope this attempt will be successful.

Some of Florida's biggest corporations have formed the Florida Business Coalition for a Competitive Workforce in support of the bill. Participating companies include the Walt Disney World Resorts, Marriott, Wells Fargo, CSX, Darden (the parent company of Olive Garden), NextEra Energy, Florida Blue, the Miami Heat, and Winn-Dixie.

The coalition believes that the legislation will make Florida more competitive in the national and global marketplace in much the same way companies have benefitted from adopting anti-discrimination policies. "The link between strong anti-discrimination laws and the ability to draw the best and the brightest is the reason that 84% of the nation’s largest companies have adopted comprehensive anti-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity," according to the coalition.

Florida Rep. Holly Raschein agrees, saying that the legislation she is sponsoring to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation is a way to attract jobs and tourists.

"It's good for business," she said. "It's good for recruiting the best and the brightest to Florida. We want to make sure Florida is as friendly as possible to all people."

Rosemarie Lally, J.D., is a freelance legal writer and editor based in Washington, D.C.

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