On March 10, 2022, the Florida legislature passed CS/HB 7 commonly known as the “Stop WOKE Act.” The Act would amend the Florida Civil Rights Act (“FCRA”), which prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against employees because of their race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status. The Act—which awaits Gov. DeSantis’ signature—would add a subsection to the FCRA making it illegal for employers to require employees to participate in any training, instruction, or other activity that “espouses, promotes, advances, inculcates, or compels” employees to believe certain concepts that, among other things, one race, sex, color, or national origin is inherently racist, sexist, oppressed, or privileged.
Gov. DeSantis is likely to sign the bill into law given his support of the bill when it was introduced in December 2021. Assuming that happens, the amendments will take effect July 1, 2022.
The Act provides that the restriction is not intended to prohibit discussion of the barred concepts as part of a training, as long as the training is done in an “objective manner.” However, there is little doubt that these amendments will effectively chill Florida employers from providing Diversity and Inclusion training and—potentially—sexual harassment training until there is further guidance on how this law will be interpreted by courts.
What do employers need to do now? It would be prudent for covered Florida employers to review their mandatory trainings—especially those trainings that focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. If there is any question that a particular training module could be perceived as “espousing” an idea that one race, color, sex, or national origin should be held accountable for past actions of its members, or that one set of people is historically oppressed or privileged, the employer should consider making the module voluntary. Again, this law prohibits mandatory training or instruction; so, among others, a potential way to avoid liability is to create a policy or disclaimer that makes certain training components optional. We would be happy to help you navigate through this new development. Please do not hesitate to reach out to either of us or any member of our team.
The information contained in this document does not constitute legal advice.