HR Takes Over Tallahassee
A record number of sixty HR Florida members gathered in Tallahassee to walk the halls of the Capitol on February 17-18, during the sixth annual HR Florida, Day on the Hill. The purpose of the event was to introduce legislators to HR Florida and begin dialogue regarding some of the most pressing issues facing Florida’s workforce and HR professionals today. A few of the fifteen bills that HR Florida deemed as priorities were equal rights for men and women, state minimum wage, social media privacy, discrimination in employment screening, and limiting salaries of employees of not-for-profit organizations.
Council President Carol McDaniel says that one of HR Florida’s key missions is to advocate for the workplace: Our Day on the Hill is an opportunity to meet face to face with key legislators to ensure that our organization is the voice for businesses here in Florida, large and small.” Throughout the day and a half, members engaged in discussions with key political and legal leaders, participated in legislative informational sessions, and met with key legislators who are sponsoring bills on priority issues for HR Florida.
By the end of session in March, the state minimum wage, employment discrimination, and discrimination in employment screening bills had all died in committee meetings. Participants were encouraged to develop relationships with legislators when they returned home. The 2017 legislative session begins in January and plans are already underway for Day on the Hill, 2017.
The issues that matter and HR Florida’s stance
• State Minimum Wage: SB 6 and HB 109
This bill proposed increasing the state minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour, prohibiting an employer from paying an employee at a rate less than the state minimum wage, nullifying the requirement that only individuals entitled to receive the federal minimum wage are eligible to receive the state minimum wage, etc. HR Florida is not opposed to an increase in minimum wage, but believes an increase to fifteen dollars an hour—as opposed to an incremental increase—would have an adverse impact on Florida’s businesses and economy.
• Employment Discrimination: SB 454 & HB 7
This bill would include the creation of the Helen Gordon Davis Fair Pay Protection Act recognizing the importance of the department of economic opportunity and the Florida commission on human relations in ensuring fair pay. This bill would also create Governor’s Recognition Award for Pay Equity in the Workplace requiring that the award be given annually to employers which have engaged in activities that eliminate barriers to equal pay for equal work for women and other minorities. HR Florida supports legislation promoting equal pay, but is concerned that the proposed bill implicitly creates a private cause of action. For this reason, unless amended, HR Florida opposed the legislation as written.
• Discrimination in Employment Screening: SB 448 & HB 353
Dubbed as “Ban the Box,” this bill prohibits an employer from inquiring about or considering an applicant’s criminal history on an initial employment application unless required to do so by law. HR Florida generally favors legislation prohibiting such inquiries on an initial application, but opposed the proposed bills because they did not contain exceptions for entities required to ensure those they employ do not have criminal histories such as law enforcement, health care and child care.
Kara Palmer Smith is the Public Relations Director for HR Florida.