Spurred by the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando that took the lives of 49 people last year, LGBTQ activists have revived efforts to pass a civil rights workforce protection act for gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual workers. Despite co-sponsorships and endorsements by 44 percent of the legislature, the Florida Competitive Workforce Act (FCWA) was turned down by lawmakers again this year.
What is the Florida Competitors Workforce Act?
The FCWA would have been an amendment to ch. 760 of the Florida state statutes that prohibit discrimination based on religion, race, color, age, sex, marital status, handicap, or national origin. The amendment would have added a prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and would apply to housing, employment, and public accommodations.
Activists have been attempting to update the law for almost 10 years without success. This year, the request was heard before the Senate Judiciary Committee for the first time since 2008. It received a tie-vote and failed to pass. If the bill had passed, it would still have had to go through three more Senate committees and the House before becoming law.
Supporters of the bill emphasize the economic benefits that inclusion could bring to the state. Companies looking to expand or relocate to Florida are likely to appreciate the reassurance that the state laws will create a friendly environment for their diverse staff. Similar anti-discrimination acts have already passed in 20 other states. There is no workforce or housing protection currently offered for the LGBTQ community on a Federal level.
Future Outlook for Florida Anti-Discrimination Laws
Although the state-wide bill failed to pass, it’s estimated that 55 percent of Florida’s population already live in an area where similar laws are in place. This includes 33 towns and cities and the following counties:
- Palm Beach
It’s been reported that almost 75 percent of Floridians support anti-discrimination laws for the LGBTQ community. The bill is expected to be reintroduced and will likely pass in the coming years.
Impact on Florida Employers
Florida employers must be aware of the laws that apply to their specific location. Steps should be taken to ensure that all managers and supervisors understand the rules and agree to abide by them.
If any of the following occur solely due to an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity, it would be considered discrimination:
- Offering a lower salary than others performing the same job
- Denying a promotion
- Denying spousal health insurance
- Harassment including disparaging remarks, sexually-oriented comments, or the use of derogatory terms
Regardless of whether the current laws apply to you, treating all employees equally and fairly should be considered a best practice for employers in all locations. This will help to avoid the potential costs and legal problems that can result from discrimination accusations.