Bill aims to strengthen workplace protection

State Senator Joe Gruters addresses his colleagues in the Legislature.
Photo courtesy of

Florida state Sen. Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) filed a bill earlier this month that provides remedies for unlawful discrimination in the workplace.

Florida lawmakers have failed in recent years to agree on legislation that would prohibit unlawful employment practices.

The bill (SB 438) focusses on revising the state’s Civil Rights Act of 1992, which was designed to ensure that all individuals in the state are free from discriminations based on sex, race, religion and handicap. The revisions to the bill will include freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Gruters’ bill would stop an employer from terminating their worker because of sexual orientation or gender identity. However, some traditionally conservative legislators are not in favor of passing the Florida Inclusive Rights Act, the name of SB 438, anytime soon.

The Florida Inclusive Rights Act aims to amend the previous Civil Rights Act and add that impermissible grounds for discrimination will include biased based off sexual orientation and gender identity, with respect to specified unlawful employment practices.

“To me it’s about moving the agenda forward and starting off with protection,” Gruters said at a news conference. “That’s why we have to do everything we can to make sure we have a strong vibrant economy and have to make sure that we continue to support economic policies that will allow people to be successful.”

Gruters has also co-sponsored the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which supported prohibiting workplace discrimination. The bill is sponsored by Republican Representatives Dennis Baxley and Jay Font.

Gruters, a Florida State University graduate, also serves on the committee for Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice, and the Public Counsel Oversight. He has introduced more than 15 bills since elected to the Senate in 2018.

When asked if SB 438 passes, what significance it would have on her life, FSU student Claire Mercado said, “It would change so much for me.” Claire, who identifies as transgender, explained that work place discrimination is very much real. “My first job I was working at Tropical Smoothie but they only let me work in the back area and bathroom. I had to mop floors, sweep, and do trash duty. I always asked to work the registered and I know my manager wouldn’t let me because I acted like a tomboy at the time.”