Discrimination has a significant impact 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 currently making way through the Florida Legislature. More than 275 Florida businesses have voiced support for the Act, which they say gives the state a competitive advantage in an evolving marketplace.
Making up the bi-partisan Act in the 2015 Legislative Session is House Bill 33, by Key Largo Republican Holly Raschein and Senate Bill 156 from Boynton Beach Democrat Joe Abruzzo. The Act seeks to update the current anti-discrimination law, which will create uniformity across the state and 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,” says 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 non-discrimination 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 non-discrimination for the LGBT community.
The Williams Institute estimates about 328,000 LGBT workers in Florida lack statewide protections against employment discrimination. Co-authored by Christy Mallory, Senior Counsel, and Brad Sears, Executive Director of the Williams Institute, the report also raises the question of reduced 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 says. “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.