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Federal Court Temporarily Blocks Florida’s “Stop WOKE Act” as Unconstitutional

As we previously reported, on April 22, Governor Ron DeSantis signed the “Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees” Act (“Stop WOKE Act” or “Act”) which prohibits employers from requiring employees to participate in certain types of diversity, equity and inclusion training (DEI). The law took effect on July 1, 2022. However, on August 18, 2022, a Florida federal judge temporarily blocked the law, citing references to the “upside down world” depicted in the popular Netflix series, Stranger Things in his opinion.

In granting a preliminary injunction to block the Stop Woke Act, the court found the law to be “a viewpoint-based restriction on speech that presumptively violates the First Amendment.” The opinion noted the law was not targeting trainings because they are mandatory but because of the speech that might be delivered at them. In short, the Stop WOKE Act targeted only viewpoints with which the state disagreed, and the opinion also noted that the Act trivializes the freedom protected by the Title VII of the Civil Right Act of 1964 and by the Florida Civil Rights Act.

Next Steps for Employers

The injunction blocks the enforcement of the law’s provisions affecting private employers but does not apply to trainings in public schools. The state could appeal the ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals or seek a trial to reverse the injunction. In the interim, private employers may continue their DEI training programs without contending with the additional scrutiny that would be required to ensure training did not include any concept that would place them in conflict with the law. However, it remains a best practice for employers who provide DEI training to ensure that training is presented on an objective basis.

HR Works will continue to monitor this topic and provide updated information as it becomes available.

HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.