On April 22, Governor Ron DeSantis signed the “Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees” (Stop WOKE Act) (Florida HB7) which prohibits employers from requiring employees to participate in certain types of diversity, equity and inclusion training (DEI).
The law makes it an unlawful employment practice under state law to “[subject] any individual, as a condition of employment to training, instruction, or any other required activity that espouses, promotes, advances, inculcates, or compels such individual to believe” a defined list of prohibited concepts related to DEI.
The prohibited concepts are as follows:
- Members of one race, color, sex, or national origin are morally superior to another.
- An individual is inherently racist by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin.
- An individual’s moral character or status as privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by their race, color, sex, or national origin.
- Members of one race, color, sex, or national origin cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race, color, sex, or national origin.
- An individual bears responsibility for, should be discriminated against, or should receive adverse treatment because of actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin.
- An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment on account of their race, color, sex, or national origin, to achieve DEI.
- An individual bears personal responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress because of actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin in which the individual played no part.
- Virtues such as merit, excellence, hard work, fairness, neutrality, objectivity, and racial colorblindness are racist or sexist or were created to oppress members of another race, color, sex, or national origin.
However, the law does not “prohibit discussion of the concepts listed as part of a course of training or instruction, if the training or instruction is given in an objective manner without endorsement of the concepts.”
The law will be enforced by the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR). A person who believes their rights were violated may file a complaint with FCHR within 365 days of the alleged violation and then, in most cases, pursue a civil or administrative action. Remedies available under the law include injunctive relief, back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages (not to exceed $100,000). The Florida attorney general can also to bring civil actions for damages, injunctive relief, and fines not to exceed $10,000 per violation.
Next Steps for Employers
While the fate of this law remains uncertain as a lawsuit has already been filed in the Northern District of Florida challenging it, employers should review and evaluate existing training programs to determine whether they encourage participants to believe any of the prohibited concepts. If a training program encourages participants to believe any of the prohibited concepts, then an employer would be prohibited from making participation in the training mandatory. Employers should consider whether any revisions to applicable training materials may be necessary and that the prohibited concepts are presented objectively.
Employers are also encouraged to talk to their legal counsel about how to address and resolve any potential conflicts with their DEI initiatives and this law.