On March 10, 2022, the Florida legislature passed the Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act, also known as the “Stop WOKE Act” (the “Act”). The Act, signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis on April 22, alters the topics employers can cover during their workplace diversity training. This article will explain what aspects of training the Act covers and its significance.
The Act covers Florida employers with 15 or more employees. These employers are restricted from conducting diversity trainings that teach employees specific defined concepts and from making employees uncomfortable as a result of discussing these concepts. Making an employee uncomfortable, as defined by the Act, means that an individual will have feelings resulting from concepts that imply they are responsible for the past actions of members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin. If a diversity training does include any of the prohibited concepts, employers can only make it voluntary, as opposed to mandatory.
The Act lists the following as examples of concepts that would be considered unlawful to endorse:
- That an individual, by virtue of their race, color, sex, or national origin:
- is morally superior to members of another race, color, sex, or national origin.
- is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.
- cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to 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.
- should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment to achieve diversity, equity, or inclusion.
- 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.
- Individuals moral character or status as either privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by their race, color, sex, or national origin.
- 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.
However, the Act allows for discussion of these concepts as long as the training is given in an informative manner, without supporting the concepts. Therefore, the concepts are not completely prohibited, only the promotion of them.
The Act is the first of its kind to be passed in the United States, but it is expected that similar laws may also be based in other conservative states. Specifically, Arkansas, Arizona, Iowa, Montana, and Utah are considering similar laws that will limit diversity trainings. The Act allows employees to sue their employers for violations with claims of discriminatory practices. In essence, the Act expands the Florida definition of discrimination to include use of the concepts listed above to make someone uncomfortable.
Since the bill’s effective date is set for July 1, 2022, guidance from the state is expected be released soon, which would explain the limitations employers will face more thoroughly.
We will continue to monitor this legislation and provide updates on the matter as it develops in Florida and other states that follow.