Despite some progress here and there, Florida has, for the most part, been pretty crappy about LGBT rights. Particularly in the workplace. But now, thanks to a new study from Equality Means Business, that discrimination has a dollar value. And it's pretty steep.
According to the study, discrimination against LGBT employees in the state costs employers more than $362 million a year.
More than 60 percent of gay and lesbian employees in Florida have experienced discrimination in the workplace. For transgender employees, that percentage is at 80.
Equality Means Business, which features an advisory board from such corporations as JetBlue, Morgan Stanley, Royal Caribbean, Wells Fargo, and Regions Bank, among others, includes interviews from top executives from these businesses. Among some of the findings in the report: these executives cited Florida's reputation for being difficult towards diversity as a reason these companies can't attract, or keep, top LGBT talent. And the result is hurting their bottom line.
One CEO told the authors of the study that a highly-sought after LGBT candidate turned down a very attractive job offer, because they didn't feel they would be welcomed in the state and in the community.
Another example is an account of a company headquartered in a major metropolitan area in Florida with global logistics operations noted that their largest competitor, based in California, had raised questions about value of life and work in Florida for anyone choosing to live and work in the state. Florida, that California-based company said, is "‘where basic human protections are either not provided or fought against.”
The study goes on to say that employers interviewed for the report did make strides in implementing rules to help curb LGBT worker discrimination at their businesses, but were found lacking in following up with those rules. A good reason for the lack of follow up, the study says, has been over "regressive action" taken by the government at the local and state levels. In other words, law makers are getting in the way — or not doing anything at all — to help employers create an inclusive environment in the workplace for their LGBT employees.
“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," says Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida. "That’s millions of dollars lost because LGBT Floridians can still be subjected to discrimination and harassment in the workplace."
Some towns in Florida have been making strides. West Palm Beach, for example, approved an equal benefits ordinance for gay and lesbian city workers as well as an extension of a full range of domestic partnership benefits, including health, dental, and vision insurance, for its municipal employees.
But while those rights are great, the crux of this study is the overall environment an LGBT worker might find themselves in at a job. This is about legal protections from LGBT employees from workplace discrimination.
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A big issue being tackled in Tallahassee now is over a restroom bill that would discriminate against transgender workers. The bill proposes to make it mandatory for a person who enters a public restroom to be of the same sex that identifies them on their driver's license. Which means a person born a man, but is now a woman, can't enter the women's restroom, and could be subject to fines and or arrest. This would become a major problem at businesses that employ transgender workers.
“It is clearly in the state’s interests to provide equal protection for all employees against discrimination," Smith says. "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 executives who took part in the study say that they regard non-discrimination protections as common sense, and that these protections should be non-negotiable. They also keenly noted that Millennials are growing more and more aware of Florida's reputation as an anti-LGBT state, and that looms large for business growth.
As the study says: “As 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."