Florida “Anti-Woke” Corporate Training Law Set to Go Into Effect July 1
For more than two decades, our Marion County, Florida employment lawyers have fought for the rights of race discrimination victims. Through their decades of experience representing race discrimination victims, our Ocala, Florida employment attorneys know that civil rights progress is often a “two steps forward, one step back” process. As the United States moves toward more workplace protections for targeted classes of individuals, including women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and ethnic minorities, there will always be a vocal push-back from people who prefer the status quo.
In April 2022, emboldened by the current composition of the United States Supreme Court, Governor DeSantis signed into law a bill aimed to curb the expansion of what he calls “corporate wokeness.” The law would prohibit certain kinds of workplace training that he and proponents of the bill claim would make workers feel “guilty” about their race or sex. The law is set to go into effect on July 1, but court challenges could delay or outright stop the law from going into effect.
HB 7’s Prohibitions on “Corporate Wokeness”
On April 22, 2022, Florida House Bill 7 was signed into law. HB 7 prohibits certain kinds of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training. Starting July 1, employers cannot lawfully subject workers to mandatory training that “espouses, promotes, advances, inculcates, or compels such individual to believe” certain concepts. The law also applies to schools teaching such concepts to students.
Concepts that are prohibited under the new law include:
- Members of one race, color, sex, or national origin are morally superior to members of another race, color, sex, or national origin.
- An individual is “inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive” by virtue of their race, sex, or other characteristic.
- An individual’s “moral character or status as either privileged or oppressed” is determined by such a characteristic.
- 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.
- Individuals of a given race, color, sex, or national origin bear responsibility for or should be treated adversely because of past actions by other members of that class.
- Individuals of a given group should be treated adversely to “achieve diversity, equity, or inclusion.”
- Individuals should feel “guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress” because of past actions by other members of their group.
- Virtues such as “merit, excellence … neutrality… and racial colorblindness are racist or sexist. . . .”
Employers who teach these prohibited concepts can be subjected to heavy fines and damages. The prohibited concepts are not, of course, what any DEI training program actually teaches, purports to teach, or intends to teach, but opponents of the new law fear that employers will simply stop any and all DEI training in order to avoid liability.
Federal Challenge to the Law Could Delay or Prohibit Implementation
HB 7 was challenged in federal court before the ink on Governor DeSantis’ signature had time to dry. A lawsuit filed by several teachers and a corporate bias training company alleges that the new law violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The new law chills free speech by enforcing arbitrary standards that can subject any employer or educator to liability based on the whims of the employee and the state. According to the lawsuit, the “broad principles are subject to various interpretations and allow the State to arbitrarily decide what speech is prohibited and what speech is permitted.”
Should the lawsuit progress through the federal court system and wind up on cert to the Supreme Court, it’s unclear how the Court would rule. For the moment, the law is set to go into effect on July 1. Employees and employers alike should be concerned with the possible implications should the law be allowed to stand.
Marion County, FL Discrimination Lawyers
Based in Ocala, Florida, and representing workers throughout Florida, our employment discrimination attorneys in Marion County, Florida have dedicated their practice to fighting for the rights of race and gender discrimination victims. If you have been treated differently from employees of a different race or have questions about your protection from workplace discrimination under federal or state employment discrimination law, please contact our office for a free consultation with our employment lawyers in Marion County, Florida. Our employee rights law firm takes workplace discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.