Lawmakers propose bill to protect LGBT workers across Florida

White House at night with rainbow lights for gay pride

Florida Competitive Workforce Act would raise state employment standards

For the seventh time, Florida lawmakers are trying to pass a bill that would make it illegal to fire someone based on his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.

Some cities and counties already prohibit such discrimination, but statewide, it is still permitted. The bill was first proposed in 2010 and has been refilled every session since. It has never had a committee hearing.

This year, State Rep. Holly Raschein, Representative of Key Largo, filed the bill for the January 2016 regular session. It’s called the Competitive Workforce Act.

The act was formed by Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce, a collection of over 30 major Florida employers, 400 local businesses and more than 15,000 residents. It was included in Bill 33 from Republican state Representative Holly Raschein and Senate Bill 156 from Democratic state Senator Joe Abruzzo of Boynton Beach. Both aimed at elaborating on Florida’s anti-discrimination law to create a better statewide standard and help attract and keep employees.

“While we did not achieve our goal of passing the Competitive Workforce Act this year, we are thrilled with the tremendous progress made in gaining support for the anti-discrimination measure,” reports spokesperson Christina Johnson.

Laws currently protect employees from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national, origin, age, handicap or marital status. However, regulations on the illegal discrimination of gay and transgender employees are not as clear and may even be absent from regions that do not offer additional regulations outside statewide protections.

In addition to protecting workers’ rights, this bill would also be pro-business. Florida wants to attract the best workers, and the state can better do so when LGBT workers aren’t worried about being fired for their orientation or identity.

The bill’s sponsors have business supporters, including Marriott, Wells Fargo, Walt Disney World and others. They have joined a coalition to advocate for the bill called the Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce. At the current moment, as many as 25 Fortune 1000 companies based in Florida now prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, while 14 of these employers prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

The group has sent a letter to Florida Governor Rick Scott and legislators, asking them to hear House Bill 33 and Senate Bill 154. The more Florida businesses who support the bill, the better this will be for employees, employers, and the total Florida workforce in the future.

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Florida Competitive Workforce Act in 2016

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