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New Legislation Impacts Diversity Training at Florida Businesses

While this year’s Florida legislative session is well in our rearview mirror, diversity training at many Florida businesses will be impacted by House Bill 7.

Known as The Individual Freedom Act, House Bill 7 (HB7) amends the Florida Civil Rights Act, Fla. Stat. 760.10. The rule makes it an unlawful employment practice to subject “any individual, as a condition of employment, membership, certification, licensing, credentialing, or passing an examination, to training, instruction, or any other required activity that espouses, promotes, advances, inculcates, or compels such individual to believe certain ‘concepts’ constitutes discrimination based on race, color, sex, or national origin.”

The legislation was signed into law on April 22, 2022 and applies to workplaces and K-20 public education institutions. It consists of eight concepts that cannot be incorporated into any mandatory instruction:

  • Members of one race, color, national origin, or sex are morally superior to members of another race, color, national origin, or sex.
  • A person, by virtue of his or her race, color, national origin, or sex is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.
  • A person’s moral character or status as either privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by his or her race, color, national origin, or sex.
  • Members of one race, color, national origin, or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race, color, national origin, or sex.
  • A person, by virtue of his or her race, color, national origin, or sex bears responsibility for, or should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of, actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, national origin, or sex.
  • A person, by virtue of his or her race, color, national origin, or sex should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment to achieve diversity, equity, or inclusion.
  • A person, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, bears personal responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress because of actions, in which the person played no part, committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, national origin, or sex.
  • Such virtues as merit, excellence, hard work, fairness, neutrality, objectivity, and racial colorblindness are racist or sexist, or were created by members of a particular race, color, national origin, or sex to oppress members of another race, color, national origin, or sex.

The law is scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2022. At that point, various training programs — including harassment and diversity training — could violate the Individual Freedom Act. The law is already being challenged in the courts; a lawsuit filed in the North District of Florida federal court claims the law violates the First Amendment. However, Florida businesses must still comply with the new law beginning in July.

If your organization has 15 or more employees, review HB 7 in its entirety and determine how it impacts your programs. You should also review and update any training material, especially any mandatory training, to check for compliance.

In the meantime, watch for any regulatory changes and additional guidance that may result from the pending lawsuit. Contact an employment attorney if you have additional questions on how your business could be impacted.

In other legislative news…

Looking ahead, Florida employers should prepare for the upcoming increase to the state’s minimum wage. On Sept. 30, 2022, this wage jumps from $10.00/hour to $11.00/hour. The move is part of the 2020 amendment raising the minimum wage $1.00 an hour every September until 2026.

With over 40 new state and local employment laws scheduled to take effect during the second half of the year, businesses must stay aware. This can be especially challenging when utilizing a remote workforce. In addition to Florida’s laws, you must also be aware of employment laws of states in which you have employees.

Make sure your human resources department is tracking legislation and keeping you informed. If they’re not sure what’s new or don’t have the manpower to do this, contact an experienced HR consultant. Not only can they inform you on the latest laws taking effect, they can help your organization stay in compliance.

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