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Florida's 'Stop WOKE Act' could limit talks on racism in schools and work

HB7 heads to Senate floor
Posted at 7:34 AM, Mar 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-03 08:41:24-05

TAMPA, Fla. — If Florida's “Stop WOKE Act,” also known as House Bill 7 or Senate Bill 148, passes, it would be the strongest legislation of its kind in the nation.

“Essentially what this piece of legislation would do is it would prohibit businesses and educational institutions from providing certain types of training or education for their employees or students that may for whatever reason make those employees or students feel uncomfortable,” said Kelly Flannery, President and CEO of the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

HB7 would prohibit Florida’s public schools and private businesses from making people feel uncomfortable or guilty over their race, sex, or national origin.

“That includes diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings, it includes implicit bias trainings, it could even include sexual harassment trainings,” said Brandon Wolf, Press Secretary for Equality Florida.

“If an employee were to say this training, or this education made me feel uncomfortable, they would then be able to actually sue their employer for providing this training,” said Flannery.

The bill states teachers would be able to talk about topics like sexism, racism, slavery, and racial segregation but they can’t persuade students to a particular point of view.

While the legislation doesn’t specifically mention Critical Race Theory, Governor Ron DeSantis said back in December the bill would keep it out of schools.

The bill states it’s about individual freedom of what topics people are exposed to, and supporters say it will keep schools from imposing opinions on students.

DeSantis said this will also prevent hostile work environments, but some critics disagree and have concerns.

“This legislation threatens to eliminate training on diversity, equity, and inclusion that are key to creating an inclusive respectful workplace,” said Flannery.

“It puts employers in a really difficult position because they want to be able to provide education and training so that all of their employees feel safe in the workplace but now we’re in this weird sticky situation where if someone else then feels uncomfortable because of the training, the employer can then be liable,” she added.

“It’s going to cause great pause and censor these conversations within the workplace which will kind of flip the script here,” said Justice Gennari, President and CEO of Tampa Bay LGBT Chamber.

The bill has passed the House and is heading to the Senate floor.