Jacksonville, FL (February 7, 2017) At the Rules Committee meeting, District 11 Council Member Danny Becton made a strong argument pointing out the flaws in bill 2017-15 (HRO) that leaves small businesses exposed to lawsuits, increasing their liability. The bill adds the LBGT community to the protected classes in the city’s human rights ordinance. Becton’s argument was based on its possible detrimental effects on hiring practices and that as a result, the bill would cause more discrimination, not less.
In his opening remarks he stated that this past year he marked 25 years as a small business owner, an achievement which is rare. That the first-hand knowledge and experience gained provided a unique perspective to the issue that he felt qualified to bring. Given this fact, CM Becton made many of the following points regarding the bill.
“Over the many years, I have hired employees who would be included in the LGB class being considered in this bill. In speaking with members and supporters of this bill, I have not met one person who can tell me how this ordinance will solve any of the problems that have been expressed regarding discrimination of the LGBT Community. To the contrary, it is my belief that this will cause increased discrimination within our city, not less” he said.
He reminded the committee that Florida is an “at will” employment state. He argued that employers face the possibility of a lawsuit if a LGBT employee is fired. Well-funded special interest organizations stand at the ready to bring a lawsuit if the LGBT group is added as a protected class. With these looming additional costs employers may practice “silent discrimination”, being hesitant to hire anyone who they may perceive as being part of this protected class who otherwise would have been hired.
“In speaking with many of the supporters of this ordinance who have reached out to me, I’ve asked them one simple question, ‘How will this bill, reduce or eliminate discrimination among LGBT individuals?’ ” Becton said. “Each and every time, the answer seems to be the same, “very little specifics but a big emphasis on, “it’s the right thing to do”, “it will make our city look good”; those are the two most popular answers.”
Additionally, Becton discussed the penalties associated with violating this ordinance and asking General Council Jason Gabriel about the city’s fine “not to exceed $500 or by imprisonment not exceeding 90 days, or by both a fine and imprisonment”. The answer from the General Council is because we have the power of a “Police State”, “Does that sound like a place you want to start and grow a business?” Becton added.
Becton shared an example situation to the committee whereby the business owner’s lead sales person decides one day to become a “trans-sexual”. In doing so, the owner supports that decision but guess what, sales decline, customers complain, as some are uncomfortable with the interaction of that person. As a result of poor sales revenue, the business owner finally has to terminate the employment as a result. So the question is this, CM Becton asked, “Was the termination based on the sales decline or because of the employee’s decision to become a trans-sexual?
Becton added, that now business owners are held to try to follow on words like: “perceived orientation, expression, uniform assertion, sincerely held and improper”, with NO definitions and only a committee of non-elected citizens, probably very politically motivated to decide the fate of an accusation, resulting in a very subjective, undefined terms and conditions against penalties of this nature.
In wrapping up his remarks, CM Becton commented on how many comments are made whereby it is said that the LGBT class is “fearful” of their jobs. “Is the LGBT Community the only employees working for companies that should be ‘fearful’ of being unemployed?” CM Becton asked. “I doubt it very much”, Becton said.
“How about the employees that worked for Academy Sports and Sport Authority? How about the employees that worked for Radio Shack and Circuit City? How about the employees that worked for Kmart?” Becton continued. “Last year along, the computer industry eliminated 72,333 jobs, where 17,000 of those jobs were wiped out in the first three months of 2016″.
“Unless you work for the Government it seems, every employee should be fearful of their employment as everything they do and how they affect the organization’s results can lead to the unemployment line”, Becton stated.
Lacking any real legislative purpose as an ordinance, Becton told the committee that the LGBT community goal could better be served if it was presented as a resolution rather than an ordinance.
In concluding his remarks, Becton clearly stated his position. “I do not support this bill. I am not for discrimination. This is a bad piece of legislation.”
To see video of the Rules Committee debate and hear Becton’s comments in full, use the following link: Click Here to Watch Feb 7, 2017 Rules Committee Video. This portion of the debate starts at the one hour mark.