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I’ve been ruminating on Florida’s recently passed “Stop Woke Act” and its potential implications for Florida-based organizations. The “Stop Woke Act” prohibits employers operating in Florida with 15 or more employees from administering diversity training with topics that make employees “uncomfortable.” The bill attempts to clarify the term “uncomfortable” as used in the legislation by stating that such feelings must be linked to diversity training that promotes, advance, espouse, or compel employees to believe that they are responsible for actions “committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin.” 

The subject and vague language of the Act make it difficult to understand limitations for employers who still plan to make available some form of DEI training to their employees. However, it is clear that the Act prohibits the mandate of DEI training that falls into the category described above. It seems like training on general DEI topics that don’t delve into specific detail, or DEI training that is not mandatory may not violate this Act.

One of the biggest challenges with this Act is its interpretation. The subjective nature of what makes someone “uncomfortable” may compel companies to tone down their approach to DEI training and perhaps abandon it altogether for fear of employee lawsuits. In my experience, any DEI topic may make employees uncomfortable. These topics, in particular, have aroused the most discomfort when explored at any length:

  • Privilege (especially White and male privilege)
  • Anti-racism
  • Systemic and institutional Racism
  • Microaggressions
  • Unconscious Bias

Programs that should propel companies toward greater DEI training, awareness, and action may stall or decline. Time will tell how organizations react to this new Act and whether they can maintain their DEI progress. While Florida is the first to pass a law like this, similar laws are being discussed in Arkansas, Arizona, Iowa, Montana, and Utah, so this will likely be a topic that continues to unfold.

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The Editor

Ngozi Okeh is an experienced leader with a history of driving efforts to conceptualize, define, assess and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as strategic business processes. Ngozi is currently the Director of DEI at a leading marketing technology company where she develops and executes enterprise-wide DEI initiatives through rigorous strategic planning efforts, community partnerships, leadership collaboration, strategy evaluation, and careful management of communication and buy-in as well as policies and procedures.  Previously, she worked at an independent mortgage bank, where… View Profile