(Tallahassee, Fla.) – Florida Competes today recognized SB 206 sponsor, Senator Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg), and HB 161 sponsor, Rep. Jackie Toledo (R-Tampa), along with co-sponsors Rep. Jennifer Webb (D-St. Petersburg) and Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo), for leading the Florida Competitive Workforce Act. This act simply expands the 1992 Florida Civil Rights Act to include LGBT protections in the workplace, public housing and accommodations.
“Protecting LGBT people from discrimination is a bipartisan issue,” said Rep. Toledo. “Sixty-eight percent of Florida voters are in favor of protecting their LGBT community against discrimination in jobs, public spaces, and housing, and we know that number has continued to grow. This commonsense legislation is pro-business and would boost Florida’s economy. It is critical this legislation be granted a committee hearing during the 2020 session.”
“We are the state’s biggest technology business and the second largest Florida company overall, with operations in another 39 diverse countries. Tech Data knows that to compete for both talent and business globally, we must harness the power of diversity throughout our enterprise,” said John Tonnison, Executive Vice President and CIO of Tech Data and President of Florida Competes. “Florida must protect all its residents from discrimination in employment and in their community in order for the economy to prosper in our state.”
While the state has failed to update Florida’s nondiscrimination laws to protect LGBT people from discrimination, updated Human Rights Ordinances (HROs) have been passed in 12 counties and 30 municipalities throughout the state, covering 60 percent of Florida’s population. But these protections create a patchwork where employees and their families are still subject to discrimination if they live in a neighboring city or county from their workplace without a local HRO.
“As more people get to know their LGBT neighbors, they come to understand that people just want to be able to earn a living, provide for our families, and go about our daily lives without the fear of discrimination. I’m so proud to represent the LGBT community in the Florida House, and passing this bill is a top priority for me,” said Rep. Webb.
“The time has come to not only hold a committee hearing on the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, but to also pass this good piece of legislation,” said Rep. Raschein. “This bill is good for business and it would benefit employers and employees by offering protections that are consistent across the state.”
“This is the civil rights issue of our time. Senate Bill 206 will make clear to those looking to relocate to Florida that they will be given the same basic rights as everyone else,” said Sen. Rouson. “Discrimination has no place in our state and the time has come for Florida legislators to embrace the Competitive Workforce Act.”
“Employees should only be judged on their workmanship,” said Marti Chumbler, attorney with Carlton Fields and member of the Florida Competes coalition. “Florida businesses can succeed only if the workforce is as diverse as the state’s population. Businesses want the Florida Competitive Workforce Act to be heard.”
The Florida Competitive Workforce Act secured the third highest number of sponsors and co-sponsors during the 2019 Legislation Session yet did not secure a committee hearing in the House or Senate. The bill garnered 74 bipartisan sponsors and co-sponsors, representing 46 percent of sitting members, of which 48 percent were freshmen members.
Major employers, including 11 Fortune 500 companies AT&T, CSX, Darden Restaurants, Marriott, NextEra Energy, Office Depot, Raymond James, Tech Data, Uber, Walt Disney World Resort and Wells Fargo, have joined the coalition, along with more than 450 local businesses.
Polling information cited above is from PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting independent research at the intersection of religion, culture, and public policy. The link to the report may be found here.
About Florida Competes
Florida Competes 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.