January 20, 2023

Florida’s Stop WOKE Act is unconstitutional and puts businesses at risk

On Wednesday, an amicus brief was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit highlighting the unconstitutional and anti-free enterprise nature of Florida’s HB 7, also known as the Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employers (WOKE) Act. Business for America, a national business membership organization, supports the amicus brief and agrees that the Stop WOKE Act violates the 1st and 14th Amendments.

BFA believes the law impinges on businesses’ rights and is detrimental to a well-functioning economy. It restricts companies’ private speech, exposes businesses to the threat of lawsuits from employees and regulatory bodies, and sets a dangerous precedent of politicians interfering in long-established employment law practices. Should the law be reinstated, it may result in adverse economic consequences. Some companies may choose to reduce their presence in Florida or exit the state altogether.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 7 into law on April 22, 2022. On August 18, 2022, the Honorable Judge Mark E. Walker, Chief U.S. District Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida, issued a preliminary injunction suspending enforcement of the law. The order is currently on appeal in the 11th Circuit where the employers’ brief was filed.

Speech codes like HB 7 are an example of how authoritarian ideas can gain traction. In this case, HB 7 demonstrates a direct violation of well-established employers’ free speech rights. The legislation seeks to censor certain expressions and ideas that are contrary to some Florida state government officials’ preferred narrative related to race, gender, and sexual orientation issues. Business leaders everywhere should be concerned about political leaders who use legislation and instruments of the state to place speech restrictions on corporations whose views they disagree with.

Business for America Founder and CEO Sarah Bonk added, “This is an example of a state government regulating the free exchange of ideas. At BFA, we think businesses should have the freedom to foster a workplace culture of their own choosing. Chilling the free exchange of ideas is a bigger threat to our liberty than ‘wokeness’ could ever be.”

Jared Meyers, chairman of Legacy Vacation Resorts, explained why their company signed on to the brief: “When workplaces promote an equitable approach to business, everyone wins. Unfortunately these actions by Florida’s government inhibit and even eliminate rights that business owners in the state have historically taken for granted. I chose to sign this amicus brief on behalf of my Florida companies because it was simply the right thing to do. Our government should not remove programs and policies that create better, more inclusive workplaces for our employees by restricting elements of the 1st and 14th amendments. This oppressive approach will cause a ripple effect of harm that extends toward every corner of the corporate sector and undoubtedly cause negative economic impact. I stand with Protect Democracy, Business for America, Florida’s workers, and the brave plaintiffs in this case and encourage other companies across Florida to do the same.”

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About Business for America
Business for America is a nonpartisan nonprofit business membership organization advancing solutions to boost civic engagement, reduce political polarization, and modernize government. A well-functioning democracy will foster a more competitive, innovative business climate in America. Businesses interested in getting involved can learn more at bfa.us.