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Florida Places New Limits on Employers Interested in Implicit Bias Training

On April 22, 2022, Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law amendments to the Florida Civil Rights Act called “Stop WOKE.” Under the new law, it is unlawful for Florida employers (with 15+ employees) to provide training that “espouses or promotes” the belief that certain concepts constitute discrimination based on race, color, sex, or national origin (for brevity, referred to as “protected group”). Examples of the prohibited concepts include that members of one protected group are “morally superior” to another protected group; an individual is “inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive” based on their membership in one of these groups; an individual bears responsibility or should receive adverse treatment to achieve diversity, equity, or inclusion or because of acts committed in the past by others; an individual by virtue of their protected group “bears personal responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress” because of past acts by other members; virtues such “merit, excellence, hard work, fairness, neutrality, objectivity, and racial colorblindness are racist or sexist.”

The law does allow some discussion of these ideas as part of a training or instruction, provided they are presented objectively without endorsing the concepts. The law extends to any information taught to students in K-12.

Three teachers, a student, and an individual who provides diversity, equity, and inclusion training to employers quickly filed a lawsuit challenging the new law. They argue Florida’s new law impinges on their right to free speech and seeks to limit it solely to appease conservative lawmakers that disagree, which is not a compelling government interest warranting an abridgment of free speech. They also argue the provisions of the law are “unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.”