Lawmakers Introduce Florida Competitive Workforce Act for Consideration During the 2017 Session

A legislative effort to bolster Florida’s economic competitiveness is underway at the capitol.

Today Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) and Reps. Ben Diamond (D-St. Petersburg) and Rene Plasencia (R-Titusville), filed Senate Bill 666 / House Bill 623, known collectively as the Florida Competitive Workforce Act (FCWA). If passed, the legislation would protect anyone who lives or works in the Sunshine State from being discriminated against at work, in housing or in public places like restaurants because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

John Tonnison, Executive Vice President and CIO of the Tech Data Corporation, praised lawmakers for taking action on an issue that he said has been of growing concern to Florida’s business community:

“I applaud Sen. Clemens and Reps. Diamond and Plasencia for sponsoring the Florida Competitive Workforce Act. Expanding nondiscrimination protections in the workplace improves morale, and in turn, increases productivity and retention of employees. But beyond the workplace, this legislation is important to let the international business community know that Florida respects equality, diversity and inclusion.”

Florida’s laws already protect people from discrimination based on their race, religion, sex, and national origin. But the current protection gap for LGBT Floridians has been a drag on the state’s economic growth. Without statewide LGBT non-discrimination protections, business leaders have testified that they struggle to compete for top talent and investments.

LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination protections have become a best practice in the business world, which is why a full 82% of the nation’s largest companies have implemented their own internal non-discrimination protections.

But a lack of comprehensive statewide non-discrimination laws will always put Florida companies at a disadvantage when compared to companies in the 28 states that do offer such protections.

That’s why FCWA enjoys unprecedented business support. Already, 450+ businesses have confirmed their support for the legislation by signing a pledge with the Florida Competes business coalition, including nine Fortune 500 companies: AT&T, CSX, Darden Restaurants, Marriott, NextEra Energy, Office Depot, Tech Data, Walt Disney World Resort and Wells Fargo.

Tonnison, who currently serves as the president of the Florida Competes coalition, said that not only is passing the FCWA simply the right thing to do, it’s a “prerequisite if our state wants to be relevant and economically competitive in the global market.”

Other members of Florida Competes—both businesses large and small—have echoed these concerns. Of particular concern: Attracting today’s fast-growing generation of millennial workers. Studies show millennials overwhelmingly support employment non-discrimination laws—and a lack of protections for LGBT workers and families could be a huge deterrent for this rising generation of entrepreneurs.

Millennial recruitment is a particular concern for Austin Allan, who owns an award-winning food startup in Miami Beach.

“As my company continues to grow, I want anyone to be able to move here and know that Florida is a place where all people are respected. If we don’t update these laws, that’s something that could definitely hold someone back from moving here, and doing business here.”

Florida Competes would like to thank Rep. Diamond and Sen. Clemens for taking concrete steps to ensure that our state’s economy—one of the fastest-growing economies in the nation—can attract the diverse and vibrant workforce it needs.

If you’re a Florida business owner and you’d like to join the Florida Competes coalition to advocate on behalf of the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, click here to view current members and sign our business pledge.