Florida Legislature Declines State Law Granting LGBT Protections at Work
The Florida Competitive Workforce Act seemed like a step in the right direction for Florida lawmakers – a recently proposed bill (SB 120) which would expressly prohibit discrimination in the workplace against gay and transgender employees. However, the Florida legislature did not pass the bill. The bill not only aimed to prevent employment discrimination in Florida, but it also intended to curtail other forms of discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transexual (LGBT) individuals. Proponents of the bill urged support to bolster Florida’s global competitiveness in the marketplace, but it all came down to bathroom access, which many surmise was the bill’s demise.
What could the bill have done if it had passed? And what can we do now to prevent discrimination at work that arises because of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity?
Learning More About the Florida Competitive Workforce Act
According to the website for the proposed law, passing this bill would have made Florida “more competitive in the national and global marketplace.” Why would a law that prohibits discrimination make Florida employers more competitive? In short, as the website contends, companies that have introduced similar anti-discrimination policies have benefited economically, attracting employees from various parts of the country (and the world). In addition, passing the law would have brought Florida’s state laws “in line with many Fortune 500 companies that offer such protections.”
With the Florida legislature’s failure to pass the bill, however, those in favor of it have to question whether lawmakers have forced our state to take a big step backward in its ability to attract—and retain—valuable employees.
Lawmaker Opposition to the Bill and the Future of LGBT Anti-Discrimination Legislation
The bill’s flop was not a total surprise. Earlier this year, an article in the Miami New Times reported that the bill was stalled in the Florida Senate, citing lawmakers’ seemingly irrelevant concerns about transgender employees and bathroom choices.
LGBT activists, in addition to a number of Florida employers such as Disney and Winn-Dixie, supported the bill and pressed for its passing in the legislature. Previous years saw similar LGBT anti-discrimination bills developed in our state (indeed, 2016 is the tenth year in which such a bill has been introduced). Up until this year, however, an LGBT anti-discrimination bill had not been heard in either the Florida House of Representatives or the Florida Senate, both Republican-controlled. But does the fact that the bill made it to a hearing—and did not pass—really indicate any progress?
It is difficult to know how such bills will fare in the future. In the meantime, LGBT employees may still find protections under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender, as well as Florida Civil Rights Act, which largely mimics applications of the federal counterpart. The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission recently announced intentions to process charges for sexual orientation discrimination under gender discrimination.
Additionally, a number of Florida’s cities and counties have ordinances that ban anti-gay discrimination. If you believe you have been subject to employment discrimination, a dedicated Florida labor lawyer can help. Contact Scott • Wagner and Associates to discuss your case.