(TAMPA) By a vote of 4 to 3, the Hillsborough County Commission today failed to extend non-discrimination protections to their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees. The proposed change would have modified the internal personnel policy, not amend to the county Human Rights Ordinance.
“Today’s vote is a step away from progress but we are committed to continuing our work so that all employees in Hillsborough County are protected from discrimination and harassment, including gay and transgender employees,” said Nadine Smith, executive director for Equality Florida.
In the wake of today's vote, Equality Florida is asking local elected officials to take a personal pledge that reads:
"I pledge to prohibit discrimination and harassment with respect to the hiring or promotion of individuals, conditions of employment, disciplinary and discharge practices, or any other aspect of employment on the basis of sex, race, color, class, age, national origin, religion, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy or veteran status."
County Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who took the pledge, had requested the proposed change as part of a policy overhaul by the Commission to create specific protections against discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
Major Tampa Bay employers, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida and the Carlton Fields, called on Commissioners to create a fully-inclusive non-discrimination policy that would mirror their own policy.
This past month, Equality Florida worked closely with the Tampa City Council to expand non-discrimination protections in the Tampa’s Human Rights Ordinance, which now includes both sexual orientation and gender identity.
"Communities are recognizing what the world's best companies have already embraced - that diversity and treating all people fairly is not only the right thing to do, but it adds to the bottom line," said Richard Florida, Author of Rise of the Creative Class and an internationally recognized expert in the area of building diverse communities.
The Federal Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA) is currently winding its way through the US Senate with the backing of President Obama. Soon, the Hillsborough County Commission and all Florida public employers will need to institute specific protections against discrimination for all of their employees in order to avoid costly litigation in the future.