In the last few months, Florida health care workers have been on the front lines of fighting a very serious public health concern. In order to do their jobs, they've had to give up their own safety, often without the proper protective gear. Unfortunately, LGBTQ workers who are actively engaged in this very important fight also face the possibility of losing their jobs in certain states, thanks to a lack of certain protections and discrimination at work.
Prominent coffee shops and restaurants may be found in airports in Florida and across the country. Some Starbucks employees, however, allege that they do not receive protection from discrimination in airport locations, even when the company touts its practices at its traditional corporate stores. Starbucks has produced advertisements promoting its shops as friendly spaces for transgender people, including customers and employees. However, multiple transgender employees at Starbucks locations found in airports say that they were discriminated against based on their race and gender identity.
Technically, it is not illegal for Florida employers and others to discriminate against workers based on their sexual orientation. However, federal employees may have protection against discrimination based on an existing executive order. Those who work in states or cities where no specific anti-LGBT legislation is in place may have other remedies if they are mistreated on the job. For instance, it may be possible to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against anyone who engages in certain types of activities at work.
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."