On Aug. 18, Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker suspended a portion of Florida's Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (WOKE) Act, a controversial bill backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis that restricts how companies and schools discuss certain aspects of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I).
Florida companies that have 15 or more employees could have faced civil lawsuits if they were found to have violated the law. Walker noted that the court would refuse to issue a stay of the injunction while a potential appeal from the state is pending.
We've gathered articles on the news from SHRM Online and other media outlets.
Judge Says Bill Violates Free Speech
Walker blocked the employer portion of the law, saying it violated free speech. He called the bill's policies "bordering on unintelligible" and compared parts of it to being in a parallel dimension called "the upside-down" from the fictional TV show "Stranger Things."
Lawsuit Led to Ruling
The suspension of the bill comes as part of a lawsuit filed in June 2022 by honeymoon registry company Honeyfund in Clearwater, Fla., and workplace diversity consultancy Collective Concepts. The law prevents Honeyfund from getting DE&I training for its employees, while Collective Concepts would have to stop providing such training to other Florida companies.
ACLU Files Separate Lawsuit Against Florida
On Aug. 18, the ACLU, ACLU of Florida, Legal Defense Fund and law firm Ballard Spahr filed a lawsuit on behalf of a group of Florida professors, arguing that the "Stop WOKE Act" violates the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, which protects free speech, and the 14th Amendment, which addresses many aspects of citizenship and the rights of citizens.
Law Targets Critical Race Theory
The "Stop WOKE Act" targets the teachings of critical race theory—a controversial concept that says race is a social construct and racism is embedded in the U.S. legal system and policies. This concept is taught in many college classrooms, and it informs workplace DE&I initiatives nationwide.
Bill's Passage Sparked Strong Reaction
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the American Society of Association Executives condemned the bill upon its passage in March. Cathryn M. Oakley, state legislative director and senior counsel for HRC, said the "Stop WOKE Act" represents an attack on marginalized groups.