Florida's Stop WOKE Act Is Blocked

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

August 19, 2022

A controversial Florida law that placed limits on the content of workplace diversity and inclusion training was temporarily blocked by a federal judge yesterday.

The Individual Freedom Act - also known as the Stop WOKE Act - took effect July 1. The Act banned workplace trainings from teaching that anyone is "inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously," or that anyone is privileged or oppressed based on their race, color, sex or national origin. It also made it illegal to require workers to attend trainings that promoted such concepts.

In granting a preliminary injunction to block these provisions in a case brought by two Florida-based companies, US District Judge Mark Walter found the law to be "a viewpoint-based restriction on speech that presumptively violates the First Amendment."

He noted that the law was not targeting trainings because they are mandatory but because of the speech that might be delivered at them. In short, the Stop WOKE Act targeted only viewpoints with which the state disagreed.

The state had argued that the Stop WOKE Act does nothing more than ban race discrimination in employment. But Judge Walter wrote, "To compare the diversity trainings Plaintiffs wish to hold to true hostile environments rings hollow." Worse still, he continued, it trivializes the freedom protected by the Title VII and by the Florida Civil Rights Act.

The injunction blocks the enforcement of the law's provisions affecting private employers and does not apply to trainings in public schools. The state could appeal the ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals or seek a trial to reverse the injunction.