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Robert S. Norell, P.A. Motto
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New Anti-Discrimination Bill Proposed in Florida

Now that the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states in June, many people have touted that the LGBT contingency in the United States now has “equal rights.” While that may be true in terms of marriage, LGBT individuals in many states–Florida included–do not have equal protections against discrimination in the workplace as other minority groups. Though certain isolated local governments have passed protections, Florida has no state law in place that prohibits workplace harassment, discrimination, retaliation, or termination based on an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

On Tuesday, August 11, 2015, however, a bipartisan team of legislators introduced twin bills in the Florida state Senate and House of Representatives in an attempt to remedy the situation and protect LGBT employees on a statewide basis. Sen. Joe Abruzzo (D-Boynton Beach) and Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) proposed HB 45, otherwise known as the Florida Competitive Workplace Act. The Act seeks to amend Florida’s anti-discrimination statute to include among the protected factors “sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.”

As it stands, Florida law only protects employees from discrimination and harassment based on the following:

  • Race;
  • Color;
  • National origin;
  • Age;
  • Handicap;
  • Religion;
  • Sex;
  • Pregnancy; and
  • Marital status.

Will the bill pass?

Many similar bills have previously failed in the Florida state legislature. However, the new proposal comes with a new spin: instead of justifying the amendment to the law in terms of basic equality, they have provided economic reasons for the new protections. Specifically, the proposers, along with advocacy group Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce, reason that having streamlined laws governing all state businesses will help to recruit and retain talented employees to work in the state of Florida. They argue that this law is key in having a bright and successful workforce, which will help Florida compete in the national marketplace. Nearly half of the states already have anti-discrimination laws in place protecting sexual orientation or sexual orientation along with gender identity.

Though the bill was only recently proposed and has a long way to go before it can be passed, employers throughout the state should consider what changes they would need to implement to ensure their policies comply with such a change in the law. If the law passes, the penalties for discriminating against LGBT employees would be the same as any other type of unlawful workplace discrimination or harassment.

If you have any questions regarding workplace discrimination, call a Florida employment attorney today

Employers that violate federal or state anti-discrimination laws should be held fully accountable for their wrongful actions. At the Law Office of Robert S. Norell, P.A., we are dedicated to standing up for employees whose legal rights have been violated. We also stay apprised with any changes in the law that may affect employee rights and will keep you informed regarding the status of the Florida Competitive Workforce Act. If you have been the victim of discrimination, please call our office today at 954-617-6017 to discuss your situation.

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