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Major employers endorse bill to prevent sexual orientation discrimination


Eleven major employers have joined Florida’s leading gay-rights group to support a proposed state law preventing workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Equality Florida on Monday announced the launch of Florida Business Coalition for a Competitive Workforce, a group of top employers including Walt Disney World Resort, Wells Fargo and Darden Restaurants committed to “passing a bipartisan bill that would ban anti-gay and gender-based discrimination.”

“This would be statewide nondiscrimination protection,” said Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida. “The majority of Floridians live in communities that have local protection, but it’s a patchwork quilt. You can live in a city where you’re fully protected but work in county where there's no protections at all.”

In Miami-Dade County, for instance, the cities of Miami and Miami Beach have adopted laws protecting people on the basis of gender identity and expression. The county has not.

Passing a state law “would ensure that you don’t need to consult your GPS to know whether you’ll be respected under the law,” Smith said. “Just to be clear, this impacts employment, housing and public accommodations. We have to be concerned not just from 9 to 5, but from 5 to 9.”

The proposal is co-sponsored by state Reps. Joe Saunders, D-Orlando, and Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo, and state Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellington.

“This announcement is a game changer for our work in the legislature,” said Saunders, who with state Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, is one of two openly gay lawmakers in Tallahassee. “As policy makers we spend an incredible amount of time working to grow jobs and improve the economy. Today, we saw 11 of the state’s largest employers say our economic future depends on our ability to attract the most qualified workforce. I hope it’s a wake-up call.”

This is the eighth year a similar bill has been filed in Florida’s legislature. Previously, Saunders said, the legislation has “never even been heard in committee.”

“The question is whether the committee chairs and leadership will listen, have the debate and put it up for a vote,” Saunders said.

The first-term legislator hopes the 2014 proposal gains steam because of the powerhouse businesses behind it.

Disney spokeswoman Andrea M. Finger said the legislation would “ keep Florida competitive in the global marketplace for innovative and creative talent.”

Rich Jeffers, communications director for Orlando-based Darden restaurants, owner of chains Red Lobster, Olive Garden and The Capital Grille, said the proposal is consistent the company’s values.

“Darden is a company very much committed to diversity and welcoming to people of all walks of life as guests and employees,” Jeffers said. “We think having a diverse employee base makes us a stronger company. It doesn’t make any sense to turn anyone away. It doesn’t make any sense. Having a broad range of potential employees is very good for our company, which operates in all 50 states.”

Jeffers said Darden long ago implemented protections for LGBT customers and workers. A few weeks ago, Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s top gay-rights group, gave Darden a 100 percent score on HRC’s annual corporate equality index.

Prospective employees often decide whether to relocate based on how a community treats its LGBT residents, he said.

“People want to make sure that working for a company is comfortable,” he said. “You want to extend that to the place where you live.”

The business coalition

C1 Bank, Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, CSX, Darden Restaurants, Florida Blue, Haskell, HSN, Tech Data, University of North Florida, Walt Disney World Resort, Wells Fargo



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While I understand that local communities have passsed ordinanaces that provide supposed protections - and before you jump on me - I say that, because I really believe Florida and Federal Law prohibits descrimination based on sexual orientation - at least that is what we are told in our harassment class. So what does the bill do beyond what current law already forbids?

ed jenkins

What an absurd concept that is greatly offensive to the citizens of this family friendly state. The citizens do not want any endorsement of perverted or sexually deviant activity in their state laws and have already spoken out against these activities by overwhelming margins in just that last 5 years passing amendments against it.


This article is so full of crap. What business would ever want a law passed that would allow more people to sue them? Even worse after what we have seen recently with the strong customer support for businesses who support good family values, this would be a disastrous position to take.


Citizens of Florida support the efforts of C1 Bank, Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, CSX, Darden Restaurants, Florida Blue, Haskell, HSN, Tech Data, University of North Florida, Walt Disney World Resort and Wells Fargo; all great Florida coporations that publicly support non-discrimation legislation in Florida and already practice it in their own successful businesses across our great state.

The readers of the Miami Herald support the continued education and efforts of the newspaper to enlighten its readers.


Hey Pablo,
If you don't have anything of substance to add don't just make immature posts mocking other people because it is obvious you are just mocking ed's posts. Maybe this behavior is common in whatever country you are from but that is not appropriate here and Ed is right that this state by a wide margin said they didn't want this perverted behavior going on in this state in 2008.

tony smith

You people are ABSOLUTELY INSANE. Federal law does NOT protect gays and lesbians from sexual orientation discrimination. Google is one of the greatest inventions in the last century. USE IT. Search for articles related to "ENDA" or "Employment Non-Discrimination Act." This is a bill that has been introduced to Congress every year since the late 1970s. It would ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment. It remains unpassed.

For the other IDIOT who said a business would not open itself to liability -- DO YOU HAVE A BRAIN? If the company does NOT discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, then it is NOT opening itself up to liability. Also, these companies probably already prohibit sexual orientation discrimination as a matter of company policy. So, their workers would already have the ability to sue. Many companies support civil rights laws.

Ed Jenkins - you are the biggest nut on the face of the Earth.

D -- you are an ignorant buffoon. Over SEVENTY PERCENT of Floridians support legislation banning sexual orientation discrimination in employment. Grow up. There is a difference between supporting same-sex marriage and nondiscrimination in employment. Also, "this behavior" is not "perverted." Your mind is. Also - why do you assume Pablo is from another country? Because you're an IDIOT!

tony smith

D -- Disney has "gay days." You're an IDIOT!

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