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Study finds LGBT discrimination costs Florida businesses big

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Intolerance and bigotry is expensive business in Florida.

That’s according to a report released Wednesday by a coalition of major employers in the state called Equality Means Business.

Their report found that discrimination against the LGBT community costs employers more than $362 million a year. The losses are linked to employee turnover and loss of productivity.

“We’ve long said that discrimination takes a toll on our economy, and we now know that price tag is more than $362 million a year. That’s millions of dollars lost because LGBT Floridians can still be subjected to discrimination and harassment in the workplace,” said Nadine Smith, co-founder and CEO of Equality Florida, which convened the Equality Means Business coalition.

The study also found that more than 60 percent of lesbian, gay and bi-sexual employees have experienced discrimination in the workplace. When considering transgender employees, that figure jumps to more than 80 percent.

“At C1 Bank and at all of our investments around the world, we strive to hire the very best people and we realized early on that to compete for the very best talent on a global scale we needed to not only have inclusive policies, but inclusive practices,” wrote C1 Bank Florida CEO Trevor Burgess.

Based on interviews with top executives at leading businesses across the state, top executives recognize those who possess the most talent are often millennials who value diversity and inclusion is a must-have in a workplace.

Businesses have the ability to incorporate their own inclusive and anti-discrimination policies and that goes a long way. But the study also found that the political environment in Florida often seen as lacking in pro-diverse leaders and policies can stifle business growth.

“On one account, a company headquartered in a major metropolitan area in Florida with global logistics operations out of another noted that their largest competitor (based in California) had raised questions about ‘how good your talent could actually be’ because they are living and working in Florida ‘where basic human protections are either not provided or fought against,” the study noted.

Florida recently joined the growing list of states where same-sex marriage is legal, but the fight that preceded the historic ruling was telling. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi sent a message loud and clear that the rights of same-sex couples would not be protected. Instead, she launched a series of appeals to try to keep the state’s prohibition on gay marriage a law on the books.

The Legislature is also poised to pass a bill that would make it a crime for a transgender person to use the restroom for the sex they identify as.

“It is clearly in the state’s interests to provide equal protection for all employees against discrimination. It would help Florida transform its reputation into a more welcoming place for LGBT people, and it will allow the businesses based here to prosper by improving employee productivity, curbing turnover, and addressing current disadvantages in the recruitment of top talent.”

The study goes on to note “a broad group, younger workers (including those who do not identify as LGBT) present as more attuned to and adamant for social justice and fairness. The executives suggest that Millennials are flocking to workplaces where they believe their values are reflected, and suggest they want a company culture that ‘treats all people fairly.’ ”

Equality Means Business is a project of Equality Florida. It is the largest civil rights organization in Florida dedicated to ending discrimination of people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The project group consists of representatives from businesses like Florida Blue, HSN, Regions Bank, the Tampa Bay Rays and Tropicana, among others.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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