June 28, 2022

Volume XII, Number 179

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June 27, 2022

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Amendment to Florida Civil Rights Act Restricts Concepts Employers Can Discuss in Training

Governor Ron DeSantis has signed HB 7, nicknamed the “Stop W.O.K.E. Act,” which stands for “Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees.” The new law’s stated purpose is to protect individual freedoms and prevent discrimination in the workplace and in public schools. The measure expands an employer’s civil liability for discriminatory employment practices under the Florida Civil Rights Act if the employer endorses certain concepts in a “nonobjective manner” during training or other required activity that is a condition of employment.

The law is slated to go into effect on July 1, 2022, but its fate remains uncertain. A lawsuit already has been filed in the Northern District of Florida federal court challenging HB 7 on various grounds, including that it violates employers’ free speech rights.

Key Provisions

HB 7 states that subjecting an employee to workplace training that “espouses, promotes, advances, inculcates, or compels the employee to believe” certain concepts constitutes unlawful discrimination.

The law expands Florida Statutes Section 760.10 of the Florida Civil Rights Act to provide that it is discrimination to subject a person, as a condition of employment, to training that endorses any of the following concepts:

  1. Members of one race, color, sex, or national origin are morally superior to members of another race, color, sex, or national origin.

  1. An individual, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.

  1. An individual’s moral character or status as either privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by his or her race, color, sex, or national origin.

  1. 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.

  1. An individual, by virtue of his or her 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.

  1. An individual, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment to achieve diversity, equity, or inclusion.

  1. An individual, by virtue of his or her 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.

  1. 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.

HB 7 also states that it does not prohibit discussion of the above concepts as part of an employer’s course of training or instruction, provided such training or instruction is given in an “objective manner without the endorsement of such concepts.”

HB 7 applies to public and private employers with at least 15 employees. In addition to the workplace, the bill prohibits instruction in public schools of similar concepts.

Next

Despite the pending lawsuit, employers should review their training programs on diversity, inclusion, bias, equal employment opportunity, and harassment prevention, for example, to understand the potential implications of the new law. They also should understand potential risks associated with disciplining or discharging employees who refuse to participate in mandatory training programs, even if employers do not consider the programs to violate the new law.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2022National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 116
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About this Author

Principal

Stephanie L. Adler-Paindiris is a Principal and Office Litigation Manager for the Orlando, Florida, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. She is Co-Leader of the firm's Class Actions and Complex Litigation practice group. Her practice focuses exclusively on the representation of employers at the trial and appellate level in state and federal courts, as well as proceedings before administrative judges and agencies.

Ms. Adler-Paindiris has conducted over a dozen trials before juries and judges in state and federal courts. In addition, Ms. Adler has participated in...

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Samia Kirmani, Jackson Lewis Law Firm, Unemployment Counseling Attorney
Principal

Samia M. Kirmani is a Principal in the Boston, Massachusetts, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. She concentrates her practice in employment counseling, training and litigation on behalf of management.

Ms. Kirmani provides practical legal advice to clients on various employment law issues, including discrimination, health and leave management, reductions in force, retaliation and whistleblower matters, individual separations, and employee relations issues. Ms. Kirmani also assists clients with policy creation, revision and...

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Jenna Rinehart Rassif Labor Lawyer Jackson Lewis Miami Law Firm
Office Managing Principal

Jenna Rinehart Rassif is managing principal of the Miami, Florida, office of Jackson Lewis P.C.

Certified by the Florida Bar in Labor and Employment law since 2001, Jenna has extensive experience representing employers in virtually all areas of labor and employment law. Jenna has significant jury and bench trial experience in employment and restrictive covenant cases and is a frequent lecturer on employment law issues. Jenna practices before federal and state courts as well as administrative agencies throughout the United States. Prior to joining Jackson Lewis...

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Associate

Amanda Simpson is an Associate in the Orlando, Florida, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Ms. Simpson is part of the firm’s class action practice group. Since joining Jackson Lewis P.C., Ms. Simpson has handled a number of class and collective actions including wage and hour claims alleging claims of misclassification. Ms. Simpson has also worked with clients on Department of Labor audits as well as voluntary self-audits as to exemption status of hundreds of positions.

407-246-8408
Jason Anon Miami Associate Attorney Labor Employment Law Litigation Jackson Lewis PC
Associate

Jason A. Anon is an associate in the Miami, Florida, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. His practice focuses on representing employers in workplace law matters, including pre-litigation claims and litigation, as well as preventive advice and counseling.

Jason advises and represents employers across a wide range of industries with respect to various employment law matters, including those involving discrimination and harassment, wage and hour issues, wrongful termination, whistleblower and retaliation claims, and non-compete/...

305-704-4949
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