(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) – Last week, John Tonnison, Executive Vice President and CIO of Tech Data Corporation, and President of Florida Competes brought coalition members together to meet with legislators to discuss the importance of passing HB 623 and SB 666, also known as the Florida Competitive Workforce Act (FCWA). The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) and Reps. Ben Diamond (D-St. Petersburg) and Rene Plasencia (R-Titusville), now has a record 50 members signed on, with 16 Republicans supporting the bill.
Along with Tonnison, executives from Carlton-Fields, CSX, and Florida Blue spoke at length to members about the effectiveness of nondiscrimination policies in their respective companies, as well as the importance of an inclusive work environment to improve recruitment, productivity and retention of the top employees in the country. Major employers of the Florida Competes coalition already have nondiscrimination policies for LGBT in place at their companies, and are urging legislators to include such protections in the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992.
“For the economic benefit of our home state, Florida needs to embrace the best practices of the largest employers in the country, for the state’s own economic and strategic planning. Time after time we see the most successful and innovative companies enacting anti-discrimination policies to respect and protect their employees; all of their employees,” said Tonnison. “There are 50 members in support of FCWA in the legislature and over 70% of Floridians support this legislation. It is overdue for our legislative process to catch up with this kind of respectful and inclusive thinking, and hear the bill. Silence on this issue speaks volumes.”
Despite charges by its opponents, the Florida Competitive Workforce Act will not increase frivolous litigation based on sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. In fact, a 2009 study from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found “relatively few employment discrimination complaints based on sexual orientation and gender identity” based on states with nondiscrimination laws in place at that time.” Another study in 2013 again found no uptick in lawsuits.
After examining the states that have adopted sexual orientation and gender identity anti-discrimination laws, it is clear that these laws have not significantly increased litigation. The percentage of discrimination complaints in states that have fully inclusive protections ranged from 1.6 percent to 5.4 percent in 2007 – 2012. Over the last 20 years, Broward County, home to the state’s largest LGBT community, has received limited complaints based on sexual orientation or gender identity, representing a mere 2.6% of the total complaints filed. With 18 states that already have anti-discrimination laws in place, it is imperative that Florida pass the FCWA in order to compete in a global marketplace.
Currently, 60 percent of Florida residents have protections in place: Local Human Rights Ordinances have been passed in 12 counties and 30 municipalities throughout the state. This legislation aims to make 100 percent of Floridians covered by the Florida Civil Rights Act.
Top employers in the state have united to form Florida Competes, which aims to grow Florida’s economy by attracting and retaining the best workers to the state with the promise of equal opportunity employment. Major Florida employers, including 10 Fortune 500 companies AT&T, CSX, Darden Restaurants, Marriott, NextEra Energy, Office Depot, Raymond James, Tech Data, Walt Disney World Resort and Wells Fargo have joined, with more than 450 local businesses on board.
About Florida Competes
Florida Competes, formerly known as the Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce coalition, is a 501c(4) whose mission is to support passing the Competitive Workforce Act, which would modernize state law to include anti-discrimination protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The coalition believes that the Competitive Workforce Act will make Florida more competitive in the national and global marketplace in much the same way companies have benefited from adopting anti-discrimination policies. For additional information, please go to www.FLCompetes.org or visit the coalition on Twitter or Facebook.