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The Stop W.O.K.E. Act Affects Employers Too

By Joan M. Vecchioli, Colleen M. Flynn & Rachael L. Wood | Categories: Articles, Labor & Employment | Share June 2022

On April 22, 2022, Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law HB 7, the Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act, nicknamed the “Stop W.O.K.E. Act” (the “Act”). Subject to legal challenges, the Act will become effective July 1, 2022.

The Act, in relevant part, amends § 760.10 of the Florida Civil Rights Act to make it unlawful to subject any individual, as a condition of employment, to training, certification, instruction or any other required activity that “espouses” or “promotes” the individual to believe that:

  • Members of one race, color, sex, or national origin are morally superior to members of another race, color, sex, or national origin;
  • An individual, by virtue of his, her or their race, color, sex, or national origin, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously;
  • An individual’s moral character or status as either privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by his, her or 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, by virtue of his, her or their race, color, sex, or national origin, bears responsibility for, or should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of, actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin;
    An individual, by virtue of his, her or their race, color, sex, or national origin, should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment to achieve diversity, equity, or inclusion;
  • An individual, by virtue of his, her or their 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; or
  • Such virtues as merit, excellence, hard work, fairness, neutrality, objectivity, and racial colorblindness are racist or sexist, or were created by members of a particular race, color, sex, or national origin to oppress members of another race, color, sex, or national origin.

While the Act does state that these restrictions do not prohibit discussion of the concepts listed as part of a course of training or discussion, provided that the training or discussion is given in an objective manner, employers should carefully review and consider any diversity or inclusion training to ensure compliance with the Act.

Because the Act amends the Florida Civil Rights Act, it applies to public and private employers in Florida with 15 or more employees. As with other claims of employment discrimination, employees who believe that their rights have been violated under the Act are required to file a charge of discrimination with the Florida Commission on Human Relations prior to pursuing any remedies in court.

At least one legal challenge has already been filed against the Act, and we expect that other challenges will follow. As always, we are here to assist you in staying apprised of any major labor and employment law developments.

 

Joan M. Vecchioli is a partner in the Clearwater office and is Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law by the Florida Bar.
Colleen M. Flynn is a partner in the Clearwater office whose practice focuses on Labor and Employment Law.
Rachael L. Wood is an associate in the Clearwater office whose practice focuses on Labor and Employment Law.

THIS ARTICLE IS PROVIDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND SHOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED LEGAL ADVICE. LEGAL ADVICE CANNOT BE GIVEN WITHOUT INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR SPECIFIC SITUATION.


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