The topic of LGBTQ workplace discrimination in Florida has been the focus of significant media attention recently. A bipartisan group of lawmakers is striving to adjust Florida’s anti-discrimination and workplace discrimination laws to include gay and transgender people. They propose passing a Florida Competitive Workforce Act bill to address what they perceive to be a gap in the current laws.
However, their efforts to officially address LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace have stalled. This is partially due to the position of House Speaker José Oliva. According to Oliva, adding LGBTQ workplace discrimination to the existing laws would potentially yield excessive litigation.
Oliva has argued that Florida’s discrimination laws should not address LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace because employers cannot always immediately determine an employee’s sexual orientation. According to the South Florida Sun Sentinal, he has said, “[Y]ou could get in an event where somebody could lose their job, and then they might claim it is based on something that somebody did not know, to begin with.”
Oliva added that “Florida is a tremendously inclusive, immensely diverse state,” and therefore, the workplace discrimination laws do not need any expansion at this current time.
Others have disagreed. Some have also pointed out that changing the laws to address LGBTQ workplace discrimination in Florida could benefit the state in numerous ways.
For example, according to Rep. Jennifer Webb, one of the lawmakers sponsoring the LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace bill, adjusting the laws would help Florida businesses attract more employees. Additionally, groups in other states, such as Colorado, have published advertisements in Florida newspaper urging members of Florida’s LGBTQ community to move to states with more comprehensive LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace laws.
Webb is one of 64 legislators supporting the Florida Competitive Workforce Act. Several companies with major presences in Florida, including Disney, have also endorsed the bill.
As of now, Florida’s workplace discrimination laws do not address LGBTQ workplace discrimination. There are no current laws that prohibit businesses from firing employees (or choosing not to hire job candidates) based on sexual orientation.
Many who believe LGBTQ workplace discrimination is a problem in Florida have been trying to expand the existing laws to include members of the LGBTQ community for over a decade now. However, as long as Oliva and others who share his perspective continue to wield power, it appears as though the Florida Competitive Workforce Act will receive neither a hearing nor a vote in 2020. This would make 2020 the fourth year in a row that legislative committees have not heard official measures addressing LGBTQ workplace discrimination, despite many pushing for such measures to be heard.
Some who believe they have already experienced LGBTQ workplace discrimination in Florida argue this is an injustice. For instance, Monica Toro Lisciandro of Brevard County says she was forced to leave her job as a teacher at a Christian school when an individual called her supervisors to let them know she was in a homosexual relationship and had attended gay pride parades in the past.
However, it is worth noting that the Competitive Workforce Act does specify that it would not prohibit employers from exercising their freedom of religion rights established in the U.S. Constitution. It remains uncertain whether passing the bill would protect someone’s job in such circumstances.
Other Issues Affecting the LGBTQ Community
LGBTQ workplace discrimination is not the only topic of this nature Florida lawmakers and voters have actively dealt with this year. For instance, some have taken issue with the fact that Florida’s current school voucher program provides public funding to private schools whose policies are sometimes discriminatory towards members of the LGBTQ community. Additionally, lawmakers have vigorously debated a bill that would make providing hormone therapy or sex-assignment surgery for transgender children a crime.
These are all significant issues that will most likely continue to play major roles in Florida’s legislative discussions both in the immediate future and in the coming years. Again, those advocating that Florida’s laws be expanded to cover LGBTQ workplace discrimination are still pushing for a vote on the Florida Competitive Workforce Act and probably will not allow current setbacks to deter them from what they consider to be an important task.
In the meantime, workplace discrimination, in general, will always need to be addressed properly. If you believe you have been the victim of discrimination in the workplace for any reason, attorneys can help you pursue the compensation you deserve.
Call Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., with locations in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Orlando, Miami, Sarasota, and Jacksonville, at 813-224-0431 for more information.