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In a small victory for DEI, a U.S. appeals court upheld a ruling blocking a Florida law signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, which prohibited mandatory workplace diversity training promoting certain progressive concepts. The law, known as the Stop WOKE Act, banned discussions on topics like inherent racism or sexism and imposed penalties on violators. The court found the law violated free speech rights by targeting specific ideas deemed “offensive.” The decision comes amid broader debates on state laws discouraging corporate stances on social issues. The challenge was brought by businesses and a consulting firm advocating for free speech and workplace inclusion.

U.S. Circuit Judge Britt Grant, writing for the panel, said the law violated the free speech protections of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment by barring discussions about topics the state finds “offensive” but not other ones.

“Florida may be exactly right about the nature of the ideas it targets. Or it may not. Either way, the merits of these views will be decided in the clanging marketplace of ideas rather than a codebook or a courtroom.”

Companies have a responsibility to leverage their influence and resources to advocate for large-scale change and equity, particularly when it comes to DEI. By prioritizing DEI initiatives and actively working towards creating more equitable and inclusive workplaces, companies not only contribute to societal progress but also stand to benefit from improved employee satisfaction, innovation, and overall business performance. This underscores the importance of companies embracing their corporate power to drive positive change and equity within their organizations and beyond.

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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