Discrimination has a significant effect on Florida’s economy, say supporters of a statewide measure to create uniform protections for the LGBT community.
Employee turnover and lost productivity from discriminatory practices cost Florida businesses millions, according to a pair of reports released this week by the independent Equality Means Business and the UCLA School of Law Williams Institute.
One study found that more than $360 million is lost each year by discrimination, bolstering the argument for passage of Competitive Workforce Act, which is making way through the Florida Legislature. More than 275 Florida businesses have voiced support for the legislation, which they say gives the state a competitive advantage in an evolving marketplace.
Making up the bipartisan act in the 2015 Legislative Session is HB 33, by Key Largo Republican Rep. Holly Raschein and SB 156 from Boynton Beach Democrat Sen. Joe Abruzzo. The legislation would update the current anti-discrimination law, creating uniformity across the state to help attract and retain employees.
“We have known that more than 70 percent of Floridians believe in equal treatment for all employees, including LGBT persons,” said Equality Means Business executive director Nadine Smith in a letter introducing the studies. “Now we also have documented evidence of the link between state economic competitiveness and equal opportunity in the workplace.”
The study took interviews with several top executives from leading Florida-based businesses, finding that among millennials, diversity and inclusion are essential values. This attitude makes nondiscrimination protections indispensable for competitiveness in the workforce.
Executives polled cited as one of the chief challenges in attracting and retaining talent is Florida’s reputation as hostile to diversity. Researchers also found a direct link between employee engagement and both competitiveness and profits.
Many businesses in the Sunshine State say they are looking to expand in the near future. Seventy-five percent of respondents expect to grow in the next 36 months. Others report relocation or expansion plans that favor locations promoting diversity and nondiscrimination for the LGBT community.
The Williams Institute estimates about 328,000 LGBT workers in Florida lack statewide protection against employment discrimination. Co-written by Christy Mallory, senior counsel, and Brad Sears, executive director of the Williams Institute, the report also answers the question of whether there would be a reduction in litigation should the statewide Competitive Workforce Act 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,” Mallory said. “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.”
Twenty-five Fortune 1000 companies based in Florida now prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, while 14 of them also prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.