On April 22, 2022, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the “stop WOKE” Act (Florida HB7) into law. Briefly, this act amends the Florida Civil Rights Act and imposes restrictions on the content that public and private employers may use in workplace training sessions related to race, color, sex, or nationality.
As with any new law, it’s important to break down the details to grasp a better understanding of how it could affect you or your business. The act could potentially have significant implications for employers who operate in the state of Florida. Therefore, in this blog we will take a deeper dive into the details of the bill and how it could affect employers.
New Law Alert: Deep Dive Into The Details
A new law in Florida is scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2022. The law restricts employers’ ability to require diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training. The law is currently being challenged in court, and we anticipate a drawn-out legal saga. It could be put on hold or struck down before or after the effective date—we’ll provide an update if that happens.
Under the law, employers with 15 or more employees are prohibited from requiring their employees to attend a training, instruction, or activity that promotes any of the following concepts:
- 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 (whether consciously or unconsciously) because of their race, color, sex, or national origin.
- An individual’s morality or status as either privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by their race, color, sex, or national origin.
- Members of one race, color, sex, or national origin can’t and shouldn’t try to treat others without respect to race, color, sex, or national origin (aka being “colorblind”).
- An individual is responsible for or should be discriminated against because of actions committed in the past by other members of their race, color, sex, or national origin.
- An individual should be discriminated against to achieve diversity, equity, or inclusion.
- 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 their race, color, sex, or national origin.
- The ideas of merit, hard work, fairness, neutrality, objectivity, and racial colorblindness are racist or sexist or were created by members of one race, color, sex, or national origin to oppress members of another race, color, sex, or national origin.
However, It’s important to keep in mind that the law doesn’t require employers to disown or discourage these views, just not endorse them at mandatory events.
Important Points To Consider
If you operate in Florida and want to continue (or start!) DEI training, here are some ideas to consider:
- Ensure that your required training doesn’t endorse any of the above concepts. The law allows training that presents these concepts objectively—without endorsing them.
- Make any DEI training voluntary and don’t consider attendance as a factor in promotions or other employment decisions or benefits.
- If you think that these subjects may come up at training or other events where attendance is mandatory (such as all-company meetings), consider working with an attorney on a general disclaimer that the company doesn’t endorse any of these concepts.
After July 1, 2022, this law will be enforced in the same manner as Florida’s existing employment civil rights protections. Any individual who believes his or her rights may have been violated can file a complaint with the Florida Commision on Human Relations within 365 days of the alleged violation. As with most cases, the individual can then pursue a civil or administrative action. Remedies applicable under this law include injunctive relief, back pay, and compensatory damages (not to exceed $100,000).
Additionally, the Florida attorney general is empowered to bring civil actions for damages, injustice relief, and fines not to exceed $10,000 per violation when the attorney general has reason to believe an employer engaged in practices that violate the new law. For the protection of you and your business, we encourage you to consult with your legal advisors before implementing any form of DEI training within your organization.
How This Affects Employers In Florida
Any employer operating in Florida should evaluate their existing training programs to determine if they espouse, promote, advance, or compel employees to believe in any of the newly prohibited concepts. If existing training programs do encourage participants to believe any of the prohibited concepts, the employer will not be allowed to make such training a condition of employment. Under the law, an employer can no longer require an employee to participate in DEI training that endorses these concepts. Also, employers can’t and shouldn’t consider attendance in these training programs as a factor in promotions.
Employers can still offer training that promotes these concepts, however, it must be on a voluntary basis. The law also doesn’t bar employers from mandating training sessions that mention these topics altogether, it just prohibits compelling employees into believing these concepts. A training that presents the concepts objectively, without endorsement, would pass under the law.
It’s still a slippery slope and preventing any legal issues within your organization will help save you time, money, and energy. One potential way to mitigate risk is by including disclaimers noting that the employer does not endorse any particular concept related to the training and that all concepts are provided purely for educational purposes.
Stay Updated In The Case Of New Laws
Laws are ever-changing, and as a business owner, you don’t have the time to stay on top of every new bill that is passed. Something that is ordinary in the workplace today might violate laws in the future. That’s why having an insurance agency that keeps you updated with local and state laws is key to the stake of your business. At Alltrust Insurance, we can help guide you through the world of human resources and risk management, saving you a great headache. For more information on how we can help protect your business, please contact us to connect today.