Two legislators, a Republican and Democrat, have each filed bills that intend to add legal protections for LGBTQ people in Florida. Currently, state law only prohibits discrimination motivated by sexual, racial or ethnic prejudices. No state-level legal protections currently exist to protect against sexual orientation discrimination in regard to housing, public lodging or employment.
In Florida and other states across the U.S., the laws surrounding LGBTQ discrimination at work are murky. It's a civil rights violation if a person is penalized for their sexual orientation. Still, some employers discriminate against LGBTQ people.
Many members of the LGBTQ community in Florida face workplace discrimination. While gender discrimination is prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled whether discrimination against gay and transgender people is a form of prohibited sex-based discrimination.
Those who are transgender or otherwise don't conform to gender stereotypes may face discrimination in the workplace. However, employers in Florida may face limited consequences for doing so. This is because there is no federal law that prohibits them from harassing employees or making employment decisions based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. According to the Justice Department, current anti-discrimination laws do not apply in these cases.
Some of the largest corporations in Florida and the rest of the nation are urging the Supreme Court to rule that civil rights laws protect employees against discrimination due to sexual orientation and gender identity. These companies, in conjunction with several LGBTQ advocacy groups, submitted a brief to the court to support their argument. They hope to influence several civil rights cases coming up in October 2019.
Upcoming decisions from the Supreme Court of the United States could have an impact on how businesses in Florida treat LGBT workers. Among major corporations, support has been growing to interpret Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as inclusive of LGBT people. In a friend-of-the-court brief signed by 206 companies, business leaders urged the high court to recognize discrimination against LGBT people as a type of unlawful sex discrimination.
Even LGBT workers in high-ranking executive positions in Florida can face discrimination or mistreatment on the job. This is illustrated in the case of one former Goldman Sachs vice president who is suing the financial firm after being fired by the investment bank. The former executive was a leader in the company's internal LGBT network and says that when he complained about discrimination in the workplace, he was targeted for retaliation and lost his job. Among other incidents, he said that he was excluded from a key conference call with a client because a supervisor said his voice "sounded too gay."
Florida residents may be aware that a contentious legal debate is taking place over whether or not the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protect LGBT individuals. Title VII of the landmark law prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, sex, or national origin, but it makes no mention of gender identity or sexual orientation. Lawmakers do not seem eager to address this protection gap and federal courts have made contradictory rulings on the issue, but a recent statement from the U.S. Supreme Court suggests that the matter will soon be resolved.
Companies in Florida and other states are generally bound by the terms of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. However, appeals courts across the country are divided as to whether it protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Second Circuit and Seventh Circuit have said that it does, but the Eight Circuit has not yet made that determination. This is important for one man who lived in Illinois but was offered a job in Missouri.
Even federal workers in Florida may face discrimination on the job, according to a number of complaints filed by LGBT workers at the Department of Justice. Responding to concerns raised by DOJ Pride, an organization representing LGBT employees, federal Attorney General William Barr ordered the Bureau of Prisons and the FBI to investigate discrimination complaints. DOJ Pride includes thousands of workers at a range of agencies included in the federal department. It had earlier asked Barr to sign a statement about equal employment opportunity at the department and indicated problems raised in a survey of members.