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What does the “Stop WOKE Act” mean for Florida employers?

On Behalf of | Jul 21, 2022 | Employment Litigation

No matter how much Florida business owners may want to keep politics out of their workplaces, it has a way of getting in – particularly with our politics as divisive as it is these days. For example, just this month, the “Stop WOKE Act” became law.

While many Floridians think that it applies only to schools, it also affects companies that do business in the state. The “WOKE” in the law’s title actually stands for “Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees.”

What does the law prohibit?

The new law controls what can be presented in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs and initiatives. These have become more common throughout virtually all industries and other types of workplace training.

Under the new law, it’s now illegal to present information in mandatory employee training that could lead people to believe that “by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, bears personal responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress because of actions, in which the individual played no part, committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin.” Gov. DeSantis has referred to the legislation as providing “freedom from indoctrination.”

Some businesses are fighting the law

At least several businesses have filed legal actions against the law. One motion stated, “The act silences speech aimed at combating racism and sexism — speech that is vital to the plaintiffs’ operation of their businesses.”

A motion filed on behalf of a Florida franchisee of Ben & Jerry’s stated that the business believes “it is critical to educate its employees about implicit bias and the need for restorative justice so they can better understand its organizational culture, function more effectively as a team and provide true hospitality to customers.”

No matter how you feel about the controversial law that has gained nationwide and worldwide attention, it is – at least unless it’s successfully challenged in court – the law. With language that is certainly wide open to individual interpretation, it’s understandable that businesses may believe they need to err on the side of caution and not address diversity at all in their training programs. If you have any questions or concerns, it’s wise to seek legal guidance.