Eighteen major corporations — including Marriot, Wells Fargo, Disney and Winn-Dixie — are taking a stand in the fight for LGBT equality in the corporate sector in Florida. Providing protection in the form of anti-discrimination laws for LGBT employees, they’re the newest amongst major corporations nationwide who’ve taken public action in the fight for LGBT equality in the workplace.
Currently, state law criminalizes workplace discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, genetic information and age, with no protections for the LGBT community. But if the members of the Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workplace have their way, that will change.
“To be able to retract and retain talent, it’s important that we have an inclusive workplace,” said Jason Altmire, Florida Blue’s senior vice president for public policy and community engagement.
“We get the best people when we have an inclusive workplace, and people that are the most comfortable are going to be the most productive.”
Florida Blue is the Florida leg of insurance company Blue Cross Blue Shield and has 11,500 employees throughout the Sunshine State. Altmire also sits on the Equality Means Business board for Equality Florida.
According to Equality Florida, 84 percent of the country’s largest companies have some sort of protection for LGBT employees. Both the Florida House and Senate have drafted a Florida Competitive Workforce Act. Should it make it onto the agenda and be passed, the law would take effect July 1.
The bill adds sexual orientation and gender identity/expression as “impermissible grounds for discrimination.”
Sponsors of the bill include State Senator Joe Abruzzo, and State Representatives Holly Rascein and Joe Saunders — all Democrats.
Grocery store chain Winn-Dixie has also signed on in support of the proposed bill. Based in Jacksonville, they have 63,000 employees and maintain more than 480 stores in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.
“Diversity and inclusion in our company is something we truly believe in, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it's important to the growth of our people and business,” said Brian Wright, Winn-Dixie’s vice president of communications and community. “We will become a great company only when we take advantage of the creativity that comes from multiple perspectives.”
Wells Fargo, which has more than 9,000 banks across the country and has 264,000 team members, even has a human rights statement posted on its website and supports the bill.
“We see this as an employment issue; a qualified candidate should have the right to seek employment and be employed. And as a very large employer, we want our team members to reflect the diverse population of the state,” said David Guzman, Wells Fargo regional president for the Greater Tampa Bay area.
Support for the LGBT community in the workplace is growing. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 21 states and the District of Columbia have laws prohibiting workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation; 17 states and the District of Columbia also include gender identity under their workplace protection laws.