Wed, 02/20/2019 - 16:00

Legislators Call for Legislative Leaders to Hear the Florida Competitive Workforce Act this Session

(Tallahassee, Fla.) – Florida Competes today thanked Sen. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg), Rep. Jackie Toledo (R-Tampa) and Rep. Jennifer Webb (D-St. Petersburg), for sponsoring the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, SB 430 and HB 485, respectively...


Wed, 03/25/2015 - 12:14


Discrimination Costs Florida Businesses $362-Million a Year

New report makes the economic case for nondiscrimination protections

Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) employees in Florida costs employers more than $362-million a year, according to a new report released today by Equality Means Business, a coalition of major employers in the state.

The report, which includes interviews with several top executives from nationally recognized businesses based in Florida, links business leaders’ concerns over the state’s ability to compete with hard dollar losses in productivity and employee turnover.

Other key findings include: ​

  • Business executives cite Florida's reputation as hostile to diversity among their chief challenges in attracting and retaining talent.
  • More than 60 percent of LGB employees, and more than 80 percent of transgender employees, in Florida have experienced discrimination in the workplace.
  • Top executives recognize that the top talent among the Millennial generation values diversity and inclusion - making nondiscrimination protections a must-have.

“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.

“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.”

Many of the executives interviewed for the report felt that their businesses actually suffered from Florida’s reputation for being hostile to certain populations such as LGBT people. From the report: “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.’ ”

Executives participating in the research noted that they see nondiscrimination protections as common sense and non-negotiable. They also identified nondiscrimination protections as critical to attracting and retaining the most talented employees among the millennial generation: “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.’ ” ​

The full report is available online at

Equality Means Business is a project of Equality Florida & the Equality Florida Institute. We are the largest civil rights organization in Florida dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.



Tue, 07/24/2012 - 11:08

By Sue Loughlin

A ban on marriage equality in the state of Indiana may drive away the most qualified job candidates, sociologists say.

Monday 07.23.12,0,2508776.story

TERRE HAUTE - Terre Haute business owner Mike Tingley has some pretty strong opinions about legislative efforts in Indiana toward a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

“It’s a good reason for people to leave Indiana if such a thing should happen,” he said. “It would be a serious step backwards.”

A member of his family is a lesbian and he has many friends who are gay or lesbian.

Tingley said he knows people who probably would leave Indiana if the state constitution was amended to include a same-sex marriage prohibition.

Indiana State University has a policy that prevents discrimination based on sexual orientation. It also extends university benefits to same-sex domestic partners, said Tara Singer, university spokeswoman.

But university officials have no comment on the proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. “The board of trustees doesn’t take a position on social policy issues,” Singer said.

She did note that President Dan Bradley “is committed to diversity, tolerance and acceptance of all individuals. He’s done a lot in his administration to provide a welcoming climate for all people at ISU,” she said.

ISU strives to have and recruit a diverse population of faculty, staff and students, Singer said.

While ISU doesn’t take a position on the proposed constitutional ban, some of its professors do.

Sociology professor Chuck Norman believes that if the constitutional amendment passed, it could prevent the most qualified job candidates from considering employment in Indiana. “This could be a deal breaker,” Norman said.

He’s concerned it would cause others to view the Hoosier state as “behind the curve” and close-minded.

Tom Steiger, also an ISU sociology professor, said many businesses simply don’t want the state pursuing something that might affect their ability to hire the best possible candidates for a job.

If such an amendment was ultimately approved by voters through a referendum, it would create a negative environment for gays and lesbians and discourage them from locating to the state, he said.

Ultimately, Steiger believes it will become a dead issue because younger people support marriage equality. “Demographics are all against [the constitutional ban on same sex marriage],” he said. “Those under 30 think [the constitutional ban] is ridiculous.”

While those 65 and over tend to be “vastly against” same sex marriage, that opposition progressively lessens the younger the age group, he said.

While the Indiana Chamber of Commerce says it is neutral on the issue, the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce did come out against the constitutional amendment in 2011, when it was moving its way through the legislature.

The Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce hasn’t looked at the issue, said Ken Brengle, president/CEO, who is new to the position.

When and if it works its way through the state legislature again, “At that point we might ask our public policy group to look at it,” Brengle said.

Kim Perkins, spokeswoman for Union Hospital, deferred any comment on the issue to the Indiana Hospital Association.

Mon, 02/27/2012 - 15:01

Equality Means Business, a project of Equality Florida and Equality Florida Institute, has announced that Susan Arko, Assistant Vice President of Customer Service Operations at CSX Corporation, has joined the organization’s Advisory Board. Advisory board members represent companies that are committed to making Florida's business climate conducive to economic success by encouraging and supporting diversity in the workplace.

Equality Florida is the largest civil rights organization in Florida dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Susan Arko, CSXWith approximately 30,000 employees, CSX ranks 230th on the Fortune 500 and, together with its subsidiaries based in Jacksonville, FL, is one of the nation's leading transportation suppliers. The company has a longstanding commitment to non-discrimination policies and encourages employees to engage in volunteer efforts “to make the world a better place.” Arko is active in many diversity activities at CSX and is currently the executive sponsor of the company’s LGBT Inclusion Group (EQ=AL).

“Realizing the value of an engaged workforce and in support of our Core Value ‘People Make a Difference,’ CSX has made tremendous strides in reaching out to all employees, listening to what is important to them and acting to ensure fairness in all aspects,” states Arko. “I am proud to work for CSX, helping to shape our strategy and environment to be a reflection of the diverse world in which we live and work. Broadening the scope of that work by joining with others to improve the lives of the citizens of Florida is an honor.”

Founded in 2010, Equality Means Business was formed to spotlight major employers in Florida that have adopted comprehensive non-discrimination polices and have demonstrated their commitment to valuing, and pro-actively including, all employees. The organization’s goal is to improve Florida’s national and international reputation as a welcoming and inclusive place to live, work and visit.

“We have long known that protecting employees from discrimination is the right thing to do,” said Nadine Smith, Equality Florida executive director. “Research overwhelmingly demonstrates that it is also good for business.”

Equality Means Business supports and provides resources to Florida employers who understand that diversity brings the skills, perspective and other assets that are essential to attracting and retaining a competitive workforce.

Currently there are 21 states and over 300 municipalities in the United States that include sexual orientation and gender identity as part of nondiscrimination protections. More than half of America’s Fortune 500 have such policies in place. Florida does not currently have statewide non-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

“We believe that by recognizing those companies that set the standard with non-discrimination policies, others will follow suit and realize that it serves to strengthen their own reputation, as well as Florida’s national and international reputation as an attractive business climate,” added Smith.

Arko joins an impressive roster of Advisory Board members, representing statewide, national and multinational corporations: Nick Kouris, BlueCross BlueShield of Florida, Beth Shimko, Pepsico, Tracy Stone, Sweetbay Supermarket, Peter Kageyama, Creative Cities Productions, Brian McNaught, Fortune 500 Diversity Trainer, Ellen Krider, RBC Wealth Management, Nancy Faggianelli, Carlton Fields, Ellen McLatchey, Symantec, Sebastian White, JetBlue Airways, Louis V. Buccino, citi, Trevor R. Burgess, Community Bank, and David Guzman, Wachovia/Wells Fargo.

The website focuses on a growing list of Florida businesses that identify themselves as supporters of diversity. Through a strong online presence and public education efforts, Equality Florida will continue to showcase companies with progressive policies as a way of saying, "Thank you" and as a way of encouraging other businesses to raise their standards as well.

For further information, please visit, or call (813) 870-8735.

Fri, 02/03/2012 - 13:22
Q Salt Lake

NOTE: Like Utah, Florida does not currently have statewide non-discriminations protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. While it is difficult to quantify the financial impact of this lack of protection, we know that major employers consider a state's reputation when considering to relocate or expand. He's an article in which officials at EBay explain their hesitation to expand in a state without these protections.

Panel discusses state discrimination bill

Posted by Bob Henline on Jan 27, 2012

Sen. Ben McAdams hosted a panel discussion Thursday, Jan. 26, at the Utah State Capitol to discuss his proposed law, which seeks to add gender identity and sexual orientation to Utah’s existing list of prohibited discrimination characteristics. The bill has received a wellspring of support from Utah’s business community, including the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce.

The panel was composed of McAdams, Tim Sullivan (CEO of Ancestry), Brandon Pace (general counsel for eBay), Jay Magure (VP of 1-800-Contacts) and Cliff Rosky (Professor of Law, University of Utah). The bottom line, according to the panelists, is that discrimination isn’t just wrong, it’s bad for business.

Each panelist agreed that there is a perception problem outside of Utah, making it difficult for them to recruit and retain the best talent for their companies. That perception, said Magure, “is reality and it creates real harm.”

Pace indicated that his company is planning to add up to 3,000 workers this year and if they can’t bring workers to Utah because of the perception that Utah is intolerant of the LGBTQ community then they’ll be forced to fill those jobs in other places.

McAdams was quick to point out that Utah is a very welcoming and tolerant community, with over 70 percent of citizens supporting statewide housing and employment protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. The panelists agreed, urging the state Legislature to enact the proposed law in order to send a clear message to people and businesses around the country: Utah doesn’t tolerate discrimination.

Currently there are 21 states and over 300 municipalities in the United States that include sexual orientation and gender identity as part of nondiscrimination protections. More than half of America’s Fortune 500 have such policies in place, including major Utah employers such as Adobe, American Express, Zions Bank, and the companies involved in the panel: eBay, 1-800-Contacts, and Ancestry.

Sat, 11/12/2011 - 10:17
Sun Sentinel

November 11, 2011
Sun Sentinel

Florida Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich, D-Weston, is sponsoring legislation to ban workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity would bring jobs to Florida, Rich said.

She and House sponsor, state Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, are calling their proposal the “Florida Competitive Workforce Act.”

They’d improve the economy by enhancing the state’s reputation as a good place to live, work and visit, the sponsors said.

"The Florida Competitive Workforce Act will not only ensure equal protection of the law for all Floridians, it will also show that Florida understands that the one of the best ways to grow our economy is to ensure we have a diverse workforce that capitalizes on the skills, perspectives and talents of all our people,” Rich said in a statement.

The gay rights group Equality Florida, which supports the Rich-Randoph proposal said most of the state’s population already lives in communities that have passed local anti-discrimination ordinances. Among them are Broward and Palm Beach counties.

The national gay rights group Human Rights Campaign said 87 percent of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation in their anti-discrimination policies and nearly half include gender identity and expression. Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, added “gender identity” to its non discrimination policy his week.

Sat, 11/12/2011 - 10:15
Miami Herald

November 9, 2011
Miami Herald

Companies doing business with the county must treat married and registered unmarried couples equally under an ordinance unanimously approved Tuesday by the County Commission.

Large companies that do big business with Broward County were told Tuesday they must now provide equal benefits to employees’ domestic partners.

The Broward County Commission unanimously passed an expanded Equal Benefits Ordinance that requires all companies with five or more employees to give give equal healthcare and other family benefits to same-sex and opposite-ex partners in order to qualify for county contracts worth $100,000 or more.

“This is a big win,” said Stratton Pollitzer, deputy director of Equality Florida, the state’s oldest gay-rights group. “This ordinance puts Broward’s domestic-partner policies among the very strongest in the county. If you want to do business with Broward County, you must treat domestic partners and married employees equally.”

In 2005, Miami Beach became the first city in Florida to pass such a law. Now Broward has become the first county, Pollitzer said.

“Broward County is leading the way in recognizing that treating employees fairly and equally is good for business and good for the community. It’s a standard we hope other counties across the state will follow.”

Pollitzer said his group, along with Dolphin Democrats, GLBT Democratic Caucus, Pride Center and SunServe, and individuals including former Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Dean Trantalis, worked behind the scenes for more than a year to make the ordinance happen.

Pollitzer stressed that the ordinance does not force companies to provide certain benefits, such as healthcare or family leave — but that if they provide benefits to married couples, they must provide the same benefits to unmarried couples who sign up with Broward’s domestic-partner registry.

Broward Mayor Sue Gunzburger sponsored the ordinance, and all other commissioners signed on as co-sponsors. “It was wonderful to hear from everyone there that this was a no-brainer for them,” gay activist Michael Emanuel Rajner said.

The ordinance shows Broward “values all families regardless of your sexual orientation,” said Rajner, a former member of the Broward School Board’s diversity committee.

Fri, 11/11/2011 - 17:36
Sun Sentinel

By David Fleshler and Dana Williams, Sun Sentinel

12:58 a.m. EDT, August 18, 2011

The number of gay and lesbian households reported in South Florida increased sharply over the past 10 years, not only in such well-known communities asWilton Manors but also in the family-oriented suburbs of western Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Broward County led the state with 9,125 same-sex households or 1.3 percent of its households, according to statistics released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. Palm Beach County ranked fourth, behind Miami-Dade and Orange counties, with 4,706 households, or .9 percent. Search the database to see thenumber of same-sex households in each community.

"Florida has become a more accepting place for LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] families over the last 10 years," said Brian Winfield, spokesman for Equality Florida, a gay civil rights organization. "There are 12 or 13 Florida cities or counties that offer domestic partner protection, and that means 6.7 million people — or about one in three Floridians — live in communities that recognize domestic partners. Clearly Florida has become a more welcoming place."

Statewide the number rose 60 percent, an increase that may be less dramatic than it appears, since experts say it likely reflects a greater willingness to report sexual orientation, rather than a vast influx. This interpretation is borne out by statistics from other states, which also show double-digit increases from the 2000 Census.

WhileWilton Manors, Oakland Park and Fort Lauderdale remain at the top in Broward, the data shows that gay and lesbian households are not concentrated in a few cities. For example, the 944 reported in the suburban communities of Pembroke Pines, Plantation andSunrise far exceed the 758 same-sex households in Wilton Manors, a smaller city considered the gay capital of Florida.

Of Florida's households, 52 percent consist of male couples, and 48 percent female couples.

Josh Winston, 33, moved to Fort Lauderdale from Washington, D.C., with his partner Mike in 2003 after vacationing here.

"There's an established community for us, and that was a big draw," he said. "We've seen the greater Fort Lauderdale area grow in the number of establishments that cater to the gay community and you also see a lot of crossover between the straight community and the gay community. We're very happy here."

In Palm Beach County, the numbers increased across the board, with some of the largest increases reported in Palm Beach Gardens, Jupiterand Royal Palm Beach. Lake Worth reported the highest percentage, with 250 households or 1.9 percent (not counting the tiny town of Manalapan, where five same-sex couples represent 2.6 percent of all households).

"I knew it!" about Lake Worth, said Penny Johnson, co-owner of a lesbian bar on Dixie Highway called The Bar. Although she and her partner Julie live in nearby, more affordable West Palm Beach, they enjoy the welcoming atmosphere of Lake Worth.

"We can walk down the street hand in hand," said Johnson. "In the College Park neighborhood, if you walk down the street, eight of 10 people are same-sex couples."

The increased number of same-sex couples in such suburban communities ties in with the large percentage of these households that have children. In Broward County, 28 percent of female same-sex households and 9 percent of male ones reported children in the house. In Palm Beach County, it was 23 percent of female households and 15 percent of male ones.

The Census Bureau issued a statement cautioning the statistics may contain a small number of errors due to a data processing decision to reclassify the category of same-sex spouse to unmarried partner. The bureau plans to issue a clarification later this year.

At the state level, Florida does not have a particularly gay-friendly reputation, especially compared with New York, Vermont and other states that have legalized gay marriage. But individual cities, counties and school districts have provided benefits for domestic partners, added sexual orientation to anti-discrimination ordinances and taken other steps to be more welcoming.

"We've been doing what we can in South Florida to distinguish ourselves from what's been going on in Tallahassee," said Tony Plakas, chief executive officer of Compass Inc., a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group in Lake Worth.

Nationwide, conservative states like Florida have had the highest increases in same-sex couples, said researcher Gary J. Gates with the Williams Institute, a think tank associated with the UCLALaw School. In Florida, that reflects both an increase in gays moving from more liberal states and an increased willingness among gays to step out of the closet and be counted.

"The magnitude of the increase suggests there has been a shift in social acceptance of same-sex couples in Florida," Gates said.

Jeff Kunerth contributed to this report.

dfleshler@tribune.comor 954-356-4535

Wed, 04/20/2011 - 15:45
Equality Florida Staff Joe Saunders and Michael Farmer with members of the OADO committee, Commissioner Lui Damiani and Former Commissioner Linda Stewart after today's vote.
Wed, 02/09/2011 - 16:39

How ERGs Increase Engagement
Chief diversity officers at DiversityInc's last learning event gave specific advice and case studies of how their employee-resource groups directly increase engagement. What can you learn from them? Attend our March 2–3 event and learn how they increase ERG participation.
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How Your Diversity Efforts Can Transcend Compliance
If you want your company to be great, not just good, then get beyond diversity initiatives that simply comply with the law by following "the spirit of the law," explains former EEOC chair and author Cari M. Dominguez.
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You're Invited to Our Shared-Values Learning Event
Our March 2–3 event in Washington, D.C., will feature amazing speakers, including four CEOs, New York Times columnist Frank Rich, anti-affirmative-action activist Ward Connerly, and Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson.
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