Florida’s small businesses support LGBTQ workers, customers

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A coalition of Florida businesses touted a poll Wednesday that shows broad support among Florida small business owners for laws protecting LGBTQ workers and customers from discrimination.

“Small business owners recognize that to find the most talented employees, they need to ensure their workplace has non-discrimination policies in place,” said Florida Competes spokesperson Christina Johnson. “Small businesses understand how discriminatory policies can adversely affect the business bottom line. This Saturday we encourage people to ‘shop small,’ and support small businesses that treat everyone equally and fairly.”

The Small Business Majority poll, released Nov. 16, found 73 percent of small business owners were in support of a federal law protecting LGBT people from discrimination in restaurants, hotels and other businesses open to the public, while nearly seven in 10 said they would back a state law against employment discrimination for LGBTQ individuals.

A slightly smaller number said they are in favor of a federal law preventing employment discrimination.

Current Florida law protects workers from discrimination by race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, marital or disability status. Proposals sponsored by Democratic Sen. Darryl Rouson, Democratic Rep. Ben Diamond, and Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes.

Neither the Senate bill (SB 66) nor the House bill (HB 347) has been heard in committee.

The poll also found a majority, 53 percent, of respondents said anti-discrimination measures based on sexual orientation and gender identity help attract and retain employees, while 56 percent feel that such laws contribute to a robust employee pool.

Just over half of respondents said nondiscrimination laws improve bottom lines by bringing in the best and brightest employees, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“At The Loop Pizza Grill, our employees are recruited based on their merits, and retained and promoted based on their job performance,” said Mike Schneider, co-founder of the Jacksonville-based restaurant chain. “We believe in order to hire the best employees, we must create an open, diverse work environment for everyone to grow. It’s not just good business sense; it’s the right thing to do.”

Florida Competes said the state could boost its total economic output by $5.46 billion over the next 10 years and create 35,759 new jobs by enacting employee nondiscrimination legislation, which would raise the Sunshine State’s attractiveness among workers.

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.


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