BREAKING: Tampa Moves Closer to Adding Gender Identity Protections

ACTION: Take a moment to Thank the City Council for taking this important step:
www.eqfl.org/thanktampa

UPDATE: The vote is now unanimous. Caetano changed his vote later this afternoon.

An amendment to add "gender identity and expression" to the Tampa Human Rights Ordinance passed first reading and will come to the council for a final vote in two weeks.

The council voted 6-1 to move the measure to 2nd reading where the final vote will take place. Councilmember Joseph Caetano was the sole no vote.

Business leaders in the Tampa Bay area including Manny Alvarez of BB&T Bank and Nick Kouris from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida spoke in favor of the measure as a common sense approach to creating an effective workplace where people know they will be judged based on merit not prejudice.

Here's an excerpt of his comments:

My name is Nick Kouris. I am the senior business development manager for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida’s West Region.

I work out of our Tampa regional office in the Westshore district. A brief summary of our comapny: We are a Florida based, tax-paying mutual non-profit company based in Jacksonville and employ roughly 6,000 individuals statewide with 230 of our employees based here in Tampa. We are the state’s largest insurer with over 4 million insured in our health business and 7.7 million customers served in all of our lines of business.

I am proud to say that we implemented policies to protect our employees from gender identity and expression discrimination in the workplace two years ago. We believe that it makes good business sense. But even beyond any business case that can be made, we felt it was and is, simply, the right thing to do. Our CEO, Dr. Bob Lufrano, has consistently demonstrated the kind of admirable leadership in word and deed that has made it possible for our company to transform our working environment into one that encourages all of our employees to be fully present in the workplace.

We believe that this is a good business practice. We have observed that an employee who feels safe, respected, and valued on his or her own merits and abilities without the fear of discrimination, is an empowered employee. And an empowered employee will tend to demonstrate greater degrees of innovation, perform better, and show greater willingness to lead than an employee who may be faced with the ongoing threat of workplace discrimination.

In a highly competitive business environment, it makes good business sense to attract and retain the very best employees. This is why we consider a culture based on inclusion and respect to be a competitive advantage. Such a culture encourages our employees to stay and to perform at their very best.

I thank the Council again for this opportunity to represent Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, and to speak briefly to our commitment to foster a culture of inclusion and respect for all of our 6,000 employees statewide.

Phil Dinkins, chair of the Human Rights Board requested the measure be brought forward last month. Fellow Board member Frank Roder also spoke in favor of the measure.

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