Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Friday said she had revised her department’s personnel policy to add “sexual orientation and gender identity to … workplace protections against discrimination.”
They join factors such as race, religion, and disability.
“This is a brand-new day in which our Department and its 4,000 employees are making a strong statement — we will not tolerate discrimination in our workplace on any basis, including sexual orientation and gender identity,” Fried said in a statement.
“We are pledging today that our Department is committed to an inclusive culture of equality, in which every employee is hired, promoted, and respected on the basis of their merit. This is a common-sense, long-overdue measure that the majority of Fortune 500 companies have implemented, and the majority of Floridians agree with,” she added.
In recent years, a bill has been filed in the Legislature that would create the “Florida Competitive Workforce Act.” It would add “sexual orientation and gender identity as impermissible grounds for discrimination in public lodging establishments and public food service establishments,” but has died each year.
“I encourage my fellow Cabinet officials to enact similar policies within their agencies and throughout our government,” Fried said.
The move makes the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services “the first in Florida’s state government to ban discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Joe Saunders, Senior Political Director of Equality Florida and a former state representative, said Fried’s new policies “bring the agency up to par with Florida’s leading Fortune 500 companies and largest employers.”
“Not only are LGBTQ workplace protections common practice but they are supported by the vast majority of Floridians,” he said in a separate statement. “We call on Gov. Ron DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis to join Commissioner Fried in extending these same protections to all state employees and contractors.”
Fried is a Democrat; the other statewide officials are Republicans.
“Let’s bring the Sunshine State into the sun,” Saunders said. “No one in Florida should be denied the chance to work because of who they are or who they love.”
State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith also called Fried’s policy change “historic.”
It “sends a clear message that Commissioner Fried will not tolerate hatred or discrimination of any kind, including against LGBTQ Floridians — a noncontroversial stance that no Cabinet-level official was ever willing to officially implement in the history of our state,” he said. “Commissioner Fried did the right thing and should be applauded.”