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Sexual orientation topic of Florida legislative debate

Under Florida law, employees are protected from workplace discrimination and harassment based on their sex. These laws include gender under the definition of sex, but what about sexual orientation? Courts in Florida have provided some protection for individuals harassed because of their sexual orientation, but the law does not explicitly provide protection.

Florida lawmakers are currently attempting to change that fact. The Florida Competitive Workforce Act or HB 239 was recently introduced in the Florida Legislature, and it seeks to target instances of sexual orientation harassment and discrimination.

This bill proposes an amendment to the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992. This act enumerates the specifically protected classes under Florida law. As the law currently stands, the classes include protection against discrimination based on an individual's "race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status." HB 239 would amend this list of classes to include sexual orientation.

Federal law does not currently include sexual orientation or gender identity as a protected class. In fact, only 21 states currently recognize these two groups as suspect classifications. Concerned parties that support and advocate for the future passing of this bill hope to make that number 22 with the addition of Florida.

As noted above, sexual orientation is not specifically included on the list of protected classes. However, this does not mean that legal relief is unavailable to those that have suffered harassment on this basis. A victim should seek the counsel of a Florida employment attorney that focuses on cases involving sexual harassment.

Source: Florida Today, "Chris Muro: Legislature tackles divisive social issues," March 17, 2014

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