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In the News

11 08, 2015

Coalition of Major Florida Employers Applaud Filing of Anti-Discrimination Legislation for 2016 Session by Sen. Abruzzo and Rep. Raschein

(Tallahassee, Fla.) – Florida State Sen. Joe Abruzzo (D-Boynton Beach) and State Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) today filed legislation that will modernize Florida’s anti-discrimination law to include sexual orientation and gender identity. While 55% of Floridians already live in places that include these protections, the bill would create a uniform law across the state, a move that major employers say is necessary for Florida to attract and retain talent and new jobs. The bill, known as the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, is supported by the Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce (FBCW) coalition comprised of 34 large employers, including Fortune 500 companies, and more than 400 local businesses.

“Business leaders across Florida applaud Sen. Abruzzo and Rep. Raschein for filing this fundamental piece of legislation that will signal Florida as an inclusive state where success is determined by hard work, and not held back by legally sanctioned discrimination,” said coalition president Patrick Geraghty, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Florida Blue.

“In order to remain economically competitive in a global marketplace, Florida must provide an environment that is welcoming to all. Recruiting and retaining talent regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity will only serve to enhance our reputation and augment our economic viability,” said Sen. Abruzzo.

Representative Raschein emphasized the need to end the patchwork quilt of protections where local protections may exist in one community but not the next. “It’s good for business. It’s good for recruiting the best and the brightest to Florida. We want to make sure Florida is as friendly as possible to all people, while bolstering a competitive advantage in today’s evolving marketplace,” said Rep. Raschein.

The link between strong anti-discrimination laws and the ability to draw quality employees is the reason that 84 percent of the nation’s largest companies have adopted comprehensive anti-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity. In fact, twenty-five Fortune 1000 companies based in Florida prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, while 14 Fortune 1000 companies based in Florida also prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

While it is illegal to discriminate in employment, housing and public accommodations based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap or marital status, the gay and transgender community is currently left out of statewide non-discrimination protections. There are currently 32 Florida counties and municipalities who have passed anti-discrimination measures against the LGBT community, representing 55 percent of Florida residents.

The FBCW coalition of businesses is calling on Florida lawmakers to make the Sunshine State a leader by making it a place where gay and transgender people can live, work and visit without fear of discrimination. The time is now for the Sunshine State to show it does not tolerate discrimination of any kind in the workplace, and in housing and public accommodations.

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About Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce Coalition (FBCW) 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 or expression. 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 benefitted from adopting anti-discrimination policies.  For additional information, please go to www.FLCompetitiveWorkforce.com or visit the coalition on Twitter and Facebook.

FBCW Coalition Members / Florida Fortune 500 and Major Companies:

Akerman, AmericanAirlines Arena, Bilzin Sumberg, C1Bank, Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, Carnival Corporation, Chamber SOUTH, Coconut Grove Business Improvement District, Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, CSX, Darden, Florida Blue, Florida Realtors®, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association, Haskell, HSN, Marriott, Miami Heat, NextEra Energy, Office Depot, Orlando City, On Top of the World Communities, Pointe Group Advisors, Raymond James, Rollins College, South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce, Tech Data, University of North Florida, University of South Florida Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity, Walt Disney World Resort, Wells Fargo and Winn Dixie. For a list of the more than 400 local Florida businesses, go to www.FLCompetitiveWorkforce.com.

Florida Counties and Municipalities with Human Rights Ordinances in place:

Counties – Alachua, Broward, Hillsborough, Leon, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Orange, Palm Beach, Pinellas, and Volusia. Municipalities – Atlantic Beach, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Dunedin, Gainesville, Greenacres, Gulfport, Key West, Lake Worth, Largo, Leesburg, Miami Beach, Miami, Oakland Park, Orlando, St. Augustine Beach, Sarasota, Tampa, Tequesta, Venice, Wilton Manors, and West Palm Beach. The population of these counties and municipalities with HRO protections already in place represent 10.5 million of Florida’s 19 million residents, or 55 percent.

21 07, 2015

Opinion Editorial: Florida should step up against discrimination

Patrick Geraghty, special to the Tampa Bay Times; July 21, 2015With the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on marriage for gay couples, Florida leaders have an important decision to make when it comes to our national and international reputation. Will we be a state that embraces equality and fairness? Or will we be seen as a state that resists progress and shuns diversity? 

The Supreme Court has solidified what Florida judges had already concluded: Gay couples have a right to marry. But the contradiction in Florida is that those same couples may risk being fired for being part of the LGBT community. In 57 of Florida’s 67 counties, no local ordinances banning discrimination exist, and state law provides no protections at all. 

Will Florida’s elected leaders update our state statutes and add sexual orientation and gender identity? The answer to that question will come when the Florida Legislature prepares for an early session that begins in January. That is when lawmakers will have the chance to move forward on a bill that would finally update our state nondiscrimination statutes and signal that Florida is a welcoming and inclusive state where success is determined by hard work, not held back by legally sanctioned discrimination.

In order for Gov. Rick Scott to continue to sell Florida as a place with the right climate for business, we need to step up our game to make sure our laws reflect the diversity of our state and recognize that our quality of life and economic health are linked to being a welcoming environment for everyone. That is why our coalition, Florida Business for a Competitive Workforce, or FBCW, has grown to more than 35 large employers and more than 400 local businesses in support of passing the Florida Competitive Workforce Act. 

This coalition of businesses is calling on Florida lawmakers to make the Sunshine State a leader by making it a place where gay and transgender people can live, work and visit without fear of discrimination. The coalition is composed of Florida’s major employers, including Fortune 500 companies Darden Restaurants, Disney, CSX, Wells Fargo, Marriott, NextEra Energy, Office Depot and Tech Data. These corporations, as well as Florida Realtors and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, support passage of the Competitive Workforce Act. Passing the bill simply adds gay and transgender people to those protected under existing statewide antidiscrimination laws related to employment, housing and public accommodations. 

More than half of Florida’s population lives in communities that have sexual orientation and gender identity protections in their local nondiscrimination laws. 

In fact, with the passage of nondiscrimination laws in Leesburg and Delray Beach, a total of 32 municipalities in Florida now offer LGBT protections. Local community leaders should be commended, but in the absence of a statewide law variations of local nondiscrimination laws may leave some business owners confused, especially if they operate in more than one municipality. 

During the 2015 Florida legislative session, state lawmakers refused to hear the Competitive Workforce Act in committee. But why? Do they fear the political repercussions of supporting or opposing it? They shouldn’t. 

State and national polls repeatedly tell us such hypothetical concerns influencing lawmakers are based on fallacies. For example, the Public Religion Research Institute conducted a nationwide survey in June that found that nearly seven in 10 Americans favor laws that would protect LGBT individuals against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing. The support is not just coming from liberals and nonreligious people. Rather, 65 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of white, mainline Protestants favor such laws. 

According to an Internet survey of 500 small business owners conducted for Small Business Majority by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, as many as eight in 10 small business owners support a federal law to protect LGBT individuals against discrimination in public accommodations such as restaurants, hotels and other businesses that are open to the public. 

A series of polls obtained by Time, which surveyed Republican voters in the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, showed that “nationally, 59 percent of Republican voters say there should be laws banning discrimination against gays and lesbians in employment, housing, credit, education and public accommodations, such as hotel stays or restaurant service. Among Republican millennials — young voters — that number reaches 79 percent support. Twenty-three percent of Republicans surveyed said they would be more likely to support a candidate who endorses a nondiscrimination bill.” 

The time is now for the Sunshine State to show it does not tolerate discrimination of any kind in the workplace and in housing and public accommodations. 

Patrick Geraghty, chairman of the board and CEO of Florida Blue, is the president of Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce.

http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/columns/column-florida-should-step-up-against-discrimination/2238142

 

3 07, 2015

Editorial: The next step for ending discrimination against gay residents

Tampa Bay Times Editorial – July 3, 2015

The Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage was a victory worthy of nationwide celebration. But there is more work to be done to ensure fair treatment of all Americans. It is illogical that states can no longer ban gay marriages but gay residents still can be discriminated against in employment and housing in many parts of Florida and the rest of the nation. While local laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity are steps in the right direction, Congress and the Florida Legislature should pass similar bans to ensure everyone is equally protected.

In both Washington and Florida, progress on this issue is stalled. The Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate passed a bill in 2013 banning workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but the Republican-led House did not approve it. President Barack Obama issued an executive order last year banning sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in federal agencies and by federal contractors, but that protection does not extend beyond those situations. In the last two years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has won more than 200 cases involving gay or transgender people. But until there is a nationwide standard banning gender orientation and sexual identity discrimination in public and civic life, the existing patchwork of federal, state, and local laws is not sufficient.

In Florida, a statewide antidiscrimination bill never received even a subcommittee vote this year. Yet 22 other states ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. Pinellas and Hillsborough are among 10 counties that have passed ordinances banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but that sort of jumbled approach leaves too many Floridians unprotected.

Public support for gay rights has arrived. A March 2013 poll by the Bob Graham Center for Public Service indicated that 73 percent of Floridians support legislation protecting gays and lesbians from workplace discrimination. More than 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 61 percent prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. There is no reason for the Legislature to keep avoiding the issue.

Legalizing same-sex marriage is a big win for the gay community, but it should not be the last victory. Congress should pass a federal ban against gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination, and the Florida Legislature should pass a similar ban. It makes no sense that gay couples can marry but could be denied a hotel room or a job based on their sexual orientation.

Copyright © 2015, Tampa Bay Times

http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-the-next-step-for-ending-discrimination-against-gay-residents/2236046

19 06, 2015

Akerman Joins Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce Coalition

(Tallahassee, Fla.) – The Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce Coalition today announced that Akerman LLP, a top 100 U.S. law firm serving clients across the Americas, will join the Coalition in support of legislation that will update Florida’s discrimination protections as it relates to employment, housing and public accommodations. Akerman is the largest law firm in Florida and one of 34 top employers in the state to support the Competitive Workforce Act, which would modernize state law to include anti-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

“At Akerman, we are committed to building a platform where men and women of all backgrounds can do great work, advance the needs of clients and enjoy the people they work with. But our commitment extends beyond our own workplace,” said Andrew Smulian, Akerman Chairman and CEO. “We support initiatives that not only create the best possible work environment but also reflect our firm’s values and priorities, and that includes workplace equality for the LGBT community. We are proud to join other major employers in support of the Florida Competitive Workforce Act and commend Florida Competes for drawing attention to this important issue.”

Akerman’s ongoing diversity and inclusion practices recently earned the firm recognition as one of the “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality,” with a 100 percent rating from the Corporate Equality Index. The firm lends its reputation to a statewide campaign, working to promote passage of the Competitive Workforce Act, which will update Florida’s anti-discrimination law, create uniformity across the state and help to attract and retain the best employees.

While it is illegal to discriminate in employment, housing and public accommodations based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap or marital status, gay and transgender people are currently left out of statewide non-discrimination protections. For this reason, Florida employers are backing the Competitive Workforce Act, which will give the state a competitive advantage in today’s evolving marketplace.

Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce believes that passing these protections statewide is a sound business strategy. The coalition is led by Patrick Geraghty, Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of Florida Blue in Jacksonville; John Tonnison, Executive Vice President and Worldwide CIO of Tech Data Corporation in Clearwater; and Philip Dinkins, Senior Vice President of DTZ in Tampa. They serve as president, secretary and treasurer of Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce, respectively. 

Coalition members include AmericanAirlines Arena, Bilzin Sumberg, C1Bank, Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, Carnival Corporation, Chamber SOUTH, Coconut Grove Business Improvement District, Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, CSX, Darden, Florida Blue, Florida Realtors®, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association, Haskell, HSN, Marriott, Miami Heat, NextEra Energy, Office Depot, Orlando City, On Top of the World Communities, Pointe Group Advisors, Raymond James, Rollins College, South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce, Tech Data, University of North Florida, University of South Florida Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity, Walt Disney World Resort, Wells Fargo and Winn Dixie.

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2 06, 2015

Miami Pro-Business Groups Join Campaign to Pass Competitive Workforce Act

– South Florida Businesses Put Weight Behind Measure –

(MIAMI) – Support for the Florida Competitive Workforce Act is gaining momentum, and businesses in south Florida are a large part of the growing force behind the measure. ChamberSOUTH, the Coconut Grove Business Improvement District and the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association have joined more than 400 businesses in Florida pushing for legislation that will update Florida’s discrimination protections as it relates to employment, housing and public accommodations.

The newest organizations to join the statewide initiative had this to say:

“ChamberSOUTH is an effective voice for the business community in greater south Miami Dade; as such we proudly support public policies that promote economic growth and equity in our community,” said ChamberSOUTH President, Mary Scott Russell. “The Competitive Workforce Act will benefit the thousands of members we represent.”

“Our city and our state’s economy thrive on our ability to make our visitors feel welcome. The Coconut Grove Business Improvement District, which represents 241 businesses, understands this and supports the Competitive Workforce Act because it will make visitors and residents feel like they belong here,” said Executive Director of the Coconut Grove Business Improvement District, Manny Gonzalez.

“The Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association advocates for our members’ interests through active involvement in local, state and national issues. Removing discrimination by passing the Competitive Workforce Act will make Florida even more attractive to leisure and business travelers, and we are pleased to support this future legislation,” said Wendy Kallergis, President and CEO of the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association, which includes more than 180 hotels and 300 allied businesses located across Miami-Dade County.

While it is illegal to discriminate in employment, housing and public accommodations based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap or marital status, gay and transgender people are currently left out of statewide non-discrimination protections. For this reason, Florida businesses are backing the Competitive Workforce Act, which will give the state a competitive advantage in today’s evolving marketplace.

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About Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce
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 or expression. The coalition believes that the Florida Competitive Workforce Act will make Florida more competitive in the national and global marketplace in much the same way companies have benefitted from adopting anti-discrimination policies.  For additional information, please go to www.FLCompetitiveWorkforce.com or visit the coalition on Twitter and Facebook.

29 04, 2015

Competitive Workforce Act Gains Momentum in 2015; Readying for 2016 Legislative Session

– 400+ Businesses and 15,000+ Residents Support Updating Florida’s Anti-Discrimination Law –

(Tallahassee, Fla.) – While the House of Representatives and the Senate elected not to hear the Florida Competitive Workforce Act during the 2015 Florida Legislative Session, support from the business community and individuals escalated to new heights, positioning the legislation for a solid comeback when the Legislature reconvenes in January 2016. More than 30 major Florida employers, 400 local businesses and 15,000+ residents signed on to support passage of the Competitive Workforce Act. Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) and Sen. Joe Abruzzo (D-Boynton Beach) introduced the legislation that seeks to update the state’s anti-discrimination law. House Bill 33 and Senate Bill 156 secured 31 co-sponsors in the House and four co-sponsors in the Senate, more than a third of which are Republican.

“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,” said Christina Johnson, spokesperson for Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce. “As we look ahead to the 2016 Florida Legislative Session, we will continue to secure even more Florida businesses in the months ahead who agree that discrimination of any kind must not be tolerated.”

While it is illegal to discriminate in employment, housing and public accommodations based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap or marital status, gay and transgender people are currently left out of statewide non-discrimination protections. For this reason, the Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce coalition is backing the Competitive Workforce Act, which will give the state a competitive advantage in today’s evolving marketplace.

Competitive Workforce Act by the Numbers:

$360 million is lost each year in productivity and employee turnover by Florida businesses through discriminatory practices.

328,000 LGBT workers in Florida lack statewide protections against ongoing employment discrimination.

15,000+ Floridians have signed a pledge to support the Competitive Workforce Act.

400+ Florida local businesses have signed a pledge to support the Competitive Workforce Act.

73% of Floridians support the Competitive Workforce Act.

32 Major Florida employers have joined the Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce coalition. This includes eight Fortune 500 companies: Wells Fargo, Disney, Tech Data, NextEra Energy, Marriott, CSX, Office Depot and Darden.

28 municipalities in Florida protect more than 50 percent of residents from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

18 states* have passed and successfully implemented laws protecting gay and transgender people from discrimination with no increase in public safety incidents.

12 of the 32 State Representatives who sponsored and co-sponsored HB 33 are Republicans.

3 out of 4 Floridians believe it is already illegal to fire, refuse a business service and refuse to rent an apartment or house to someone because they are gay or transgender.

*Eighteen states and Washington, D.C. have employment and housing non-discrimination laws that cover sexual orientation and gender identity. Seventeen states and Washington, D.C. have public accommodations non-discrimination laws that cover sexual orientation and gender identity.

Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce believes that passing these protections statewide is a sound business strategy. The 32 members of the coalition are Akerman LLP, AmericanAirlines Arena, Bilzin Sumberg, C1Bank, Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, Carnival Corporation, ChamberSOUTH, Coconut Grove Business Improvement District, Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, CSX, Darden, Florida Blue, Florida Realtors®, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Haskell, HSN, Marriott, Miami Heat, NextEra Energy, Office Depot, Orlando City, On Top of the World Communities, Raymond James, Rollins College, South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce, Tech Data, University of North Florida, University of South Florida, Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity, Walt Disney World Resort, Wells Fargo and Winn Dixie.

The coalition is led by Patrick Geraghty, Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of Florida Blue in Jacksonville; John Tonnison, Executive Vice President and Worldwide CIO of Tech Data Corporation in Clearwater; and Philip Dinkins, Senior Vice President of DTZ in Tampa. They serve as president, secretary and treasurer of Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce, respectively.

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About Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce 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 or expression. The coalition believes that the Florida Competitive Workforce Act will make Florida more competitive in the national and global marketplace in much the same way companies have benefitted from adopting anti-discrimination policies.  For additional information, please go to www.FLCompetitiveWorkforce.com or visit the coalition on Twitter and Facebook.

15 04, 2015

Editorial: Stop doubling down on LGBT discrimination

Orlando Sentinel Editorial – April 15, 2015

Florida lawmakers must reject measures that would permit LGBT discrimination, and rule it out once and for all.

Most Floridians oppose LGBT discrimination, but state lawmakers still haven’t gotten the memo. 

Public attitudes on gay rights have undergone a remarkable, rapid reversal across America in recent years, including in Florida. In 2008, 62 percent of state voters approved an amendment to the constitution to ban same-sex marriage. By last year, a Quinnipiac University poll found 56 percent of Floridians supported gay marriage. Meanwhile, the ban was ruled unconstitutional by state and federal judges. 

Yet many of Tallahassee’s leaders still haven’t gotten the memo. The capital has become one of the last bastions of opposition to treating LGBT Floridians with fairness and dignity. 

Barring a last-minute change of heart among House or Senate committee chairs, a bill banning discrimination in Florida based on sexual orientation or gender identity will die without even getting a hearing in either chamber. In burying the bill, known as the Competitive Workforce Act, the Legislature’s supposedly pro-business Republican leaders have rebuffed requests from a coalition representing 30 major employers and more than 300 local businesses. 

The coalition includes such Fortune 500 companies as Disney, CSX, Darden, Wells Fargo and Marriott. In a recent letter to legislators, company executives said they’re more likely to attract and keep top talent, and Florida will draw even more visitors, if the state takes a strong stand against discrimination. It’s not just the right thing to do — it’s good for business. It’s also the will of the majority: A 2013 poll commissioned by the coalition found 63 percent of Floridians would ban LGBT discrimination. 

While 28 counties and municipalities in the state, including Orange County and Orlando, have passed local ordinances to prohibit such discrimination within their boundaries, nearly half of Floridians live in places where they aren’t protected. They can still be fired from their jobs, or evicted from their home, or denied service by a business, simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Even as lawmakers have refused to outlaw LGBT discrimination, House committees this session have approved measures allowing adoption agencies to turn away gay couples, and threatening transgender Floridians with fines or jail if they use the “wrong” public bathroom. Sponsors and supporters of those measures would double down on discrimination. 

So far, the state Senate hasn’t gone along with the House, which could spare Florida the kind of national backlash that Indiana and Arkansas recently brought on themselves. After lawmakers in both states passed bills that could have permitted businesses to use religion as license to refuse to serve LGBT customers, their governors backtracked under pressure — primarily from businesses. 

Florida’s leaders should stop paddling against the current of history. As the coalition said in its letter to lawmakers, “The time is now for Florida to roll out the welcome mat to everyone who wants to work, live and play here.” 

Copyright © 2015, Orlando Sentinel

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-ed-gay-unfriendly-florida-20150414-story.html

9 04, 2015

Top Florida Companies Call on State Lawmakers to Reject Discrimination, Pass Competitive Workforce Act

Florida cannot wait another day and risk the chance of becoming the next Indiana 

(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) – A coalition of some of the state’s top employers and business leaders today sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli asking lawmakers to hear House Bill 33 by Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) and Senate Bill 156 by Sen. Joe Abruzzo (D-Boynton Beach) and to support the Competitive Workforce Act.

Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce is a coalition of 30 major Florida employers and more than 300 local businesses supporting the Competitive Workforce Act. Among the big brand names on the coalition are eight Fortune 500 companies: Wells Fargo, Disney, Tech Data, NextEra Energy, Marriott, CSX, Office Depot and Darden. The coalition believes that the Florida Competitive Workforce Act will make Florida more competitive in the national and global marketplace in much the same way companies have benefitted from adopting anti-discrimination policies.

The letter is posted online here.  A text-only version is provided below.

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Dear Elected Leaders of Florida: 

We appreciate the efforts made by state officials to create a pro-business environment and second-to-none tourism industry. Florida’s climate and beautiful scenery certainly give the state an advantage in many ways. However, the Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce coalition strongly urges state lawmakers to reject discrimination and take up legislation that will make the state even more competitive in its ability to attract employers, the talent they need to be successful, and visitors.  

The Competitive Workforce Act is bi-partisan legislation that promotes fairness and modernizes state law by banning anti-gay and gender-based discrimination. While it is illegal to discriminate in employment, housing and public accommodations based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap or marital status, state law does not protect individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identification.  

Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce is a coalition of 30 major Florida employers and more than 300 local businesses supporting the Competitive Workforce Act, proposed in House Bill 33 by Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) and Senate Bill 156 by Sen. Joe Abruzzo (D-Boynton Beach). Among the big brand names on the coalition are eight Fortune 500 companies: Wells Fargo, Disney, Tech Data, NextEra Energy, Marriott, CSX, Office Depot and Darden.  

In a March 2015 study, several top executives from nationally recognized Florida-based businesses were interviewed, and 75 percent of the participants noted plans to expand in the coming 36 months. Several reported they made relocation or expansion decisions in favor of a location with a public policy climate that promoted diversity and non-discrimination for the LGBT community. The same study reported that discrimination is costing Florida businesses more than $360 million each year in lost productivity and employee turnover. 

Twenty-eight (28) counties and municipalities, representing more than 10 million Floridians, currently have local protections in place for LGBT people, however, 46 percent of the state’s population remains vulnerable to discrimination. In addition, the lack of a statewide law in Florida leaves inconsistencies for employers, who must adhere to differing rules and regulations when expanding or relocating. 

More than half of our state population is protected by local policies, but we believe it is time to update our state laws to ensure these basic protections exist statewide. Florida cannot wait another day and risk the chance of becoming the next Indiana.  

Discrimination has no place in our state, and we strongly encourage lawmakers to hear HB 33/SB 156 and support the Competitive Workforce Act.  

The time is now for Florida to roll out the welcome mat to everyone who wants to work, live and play here.  

Passing the Competitive Workforce Act is good for business.  

It is good for Florida. And it is the right thing to do. 

For more information, please visit the coalition’s website at www.FLCompetitiveWorkforce.com.

7 04, 2015

University of North Florida, Rollins College and Faith-Based Student Group Back the Competitive Workforce Act

– Updating State Law will Strengthen Florida’s Ability to Retain, Attract Talent

(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) – Two institutions of higher learning and a Catholic student group think it is a smart move for lawmakers to pass the Florida Competitive Workforce Act. Rollins College, located in Winter Park, has joined a coalition of 30 major employers in Florida, including the University of North Florida, who support passage of House Bill 33 by Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) and Senate Bill 156 by Sen. Joe Abruzzo (D-Boynton Beach). The Competitive Workforce Act will update Florida’s anti-discrimination law, which will create uniformity across the state and help attract and retain the best employees.

A March 2015 study quotes John Delaney, president of the University of the North Florida (UNF) in Jacksonville, who said, “We’ve lost top candidates because of the perception of the government climate. Some local policies have a wide, confusing array of meanings.”

According to the Rollins College website, “Through its mission, Rollins is committed to creating a fully inclusive, just community that embraces multiculturalism; persons of color and other historically under-represented groups are therefore encouraged to apply for employment. Our equal opportunity policy is inclusive of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and we offer domestic partner benefits.”

More than 300 Florida businesses and organizations are backing the legislation. This includes the Catholic Law Students Association at the University of Miami (UM) School of Law. The association recently wrote a letter to Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami), a UM Law alumnus, to voice the organization’s support for the measure and request the state senator to do the same. In the letter signed by co-presidents Thomas E. Hospod and Robert F. Riley, they state, “The current lack of anti-discrimination protections for the LGBT people in Florida has the effect of relegating these individuals to second class citizenship.”

“As Christians, failing to act here would run contrary to the most sincere and crucial tenet of our faith – treating others with the essential human dignity that they inherently deserve, regardless of who they are. We are supporting this legislation because we believe and know that it is the right thing to do,” continued Hospod and Riley in the letter.

With the December 2014 passage of a Human Rights Ordinance, Miami-Dade County became the 28th municipality in Florida to offer fully inclusive protections. As a result, more than half of Floridians live in areas that offer protections for the LGBT community. However, it leaves inconsistencies for employers across the state as well as hundreds of thousands Floridians vulnerable to discrimination. A coalition of some of the state’s top employers, Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce, believes that passing these protections statewide is a sound business strategy and will draw the best and the brightest workforce to our state.

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About Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce 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 or expression. The coalition believes that the Florida Competitive Workforce Act will make Florida more competitive in the national and global marketplace in much the same way companies have benefitted from adopting anti-discrimination policies.  For additional information, please go to www.FLCompetitiveWorkforce.com or visit the coalition on Twitter and Facebook.

26 03, 2015

Florida Employers Lose $360M+ in Productivity, Employee Turnover

-Independent Studies Document Annual Costs Associated with Discrimination in Florida-

(Tallahassee, Fla.) – Two independent research firms released reports, with one study documenting the more than $360 million lost each year in productivity and employee turnover by Florida businesses through discriminatory practices.  Equality Means Business and the Williams Institute both unveiled studies in recent days supporting the need for the Florida Legislature to pass the Competitive Workforce Act this session.

In an introductory letter penned by Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Means Business, she writes, “We have known that more than 70 percent of Floridians believe in equal treatment for all employees, including LGBT persons. Now we also have documented evidence of the link between state economic competitiveness and equal opportunity in the workplace.”

The study, which includes interviews with several top executives from nationally recognized Florida-based businesses, outlines the following. The full report may be found by linking here:

  • Top executives recognize that the top talent among the Millennial generation values diversity and inclusion – making non-discrimination protections a must-have.
  • Business executives cite Florida’s reputation as hostile to diversity as among their chief challenges in attracting and retaining talent.
  • Research demonstrates that the link from employee engagement to profits and competitiveness is direct.
  • Seventy-five percent of the participants noted plans to expand in the coming 36 months. Several reported that relocation or expansion decisions were made in favor of a location with a public policy climate that promoted diversity and non-discrimination for the LGBT community.

The Williams Institute also unveiled supporting documentation that about 328,000 LGBT workers in Florida lack statewide protections against ongoing employment discrimination.  The new report co-authored by Christy Mallory, Senior Counsel, and Brad Sears, Executive Director, at the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, addressed the question of litigation should the measure be approved.

“A statewide law prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity would bring new protections to thousands of workers without burdening courts and agencies,” said Mallory. “Most likely, the cost of handling complaints filed under the law could be absorbed into the existing enforcement system with no need for additional staff or resources.”

The link to the full report may be found by linking here.  Key findings include:

  • A statewide law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity would not be burdensome or costly to enforce.
  • The law would result in very few complaints being filed each year with the Florida Commission on Human Relations.
  • The anticipated new complaints could most likely be absorbed into the existing system with no need for additional staff and negligible costs.
  • Twenty-five Fortune 1000 companies based in Florida prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, while 14 Fortune 1000 companies based in Florida also prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

A measure is currently before the Florida Legislature as House Bill 33 by Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) and Senate Bill 156 by Sen. Joe Abruzzo (D-Boynton Beach).  The Competitive Workforce Act will update Florida’s anti-discrimination law, which will create uniformity across the state and help attract and retain employees.

While it is illegal to discriminate in employment, housing and public accommodations based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap or marital status, the gay and transgender community is currently left out of statewide non-discrimination protections. For this reason, more than 275 Florida businesses are backing the Competitive Workforce Act, which will give the state a competitive advantage in today’s evolving marketplace.

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About Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce 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 or expression. 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 benefitted from adopting anti-discrimination policies.  For additional information, please go to www.FLCompetitiveWorkforce.com or visit the coalition on Twitter and Facebook.

About Equality Means Business
Equality Means Business was formed to spotlight major employers in Florida that have adopted comprehensive non-discrimination polices and have demonstrated their commitment to valuing and pro-actively including all employees. The goal is to improve Florida’s national and international reputation as a welcoming and inclusive place to live, work and visit. For more information, go to www.EqualityMeansBusiness.org.

About the Williams Institute
The Williams Institute is dedicated to conducting rigorous, independent research on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy.  A national think tank at UCLA Law, the Williams Institute produces high-quality research with real-world relevance and disseminates it to judges, legislators, policymakers, media and the public. Experts at the Williams Institute have authored dozens of public policy studies and law review articles, filed amicus briefs in key court cases, provided expert testimony at legislative hearings, been widely cited in the national media, and trained thousands of lawyers, judges and members of the public. For additional information, to go http://WilliamsInstitute.law.ucla.edu.