July 08, 2022

District Court Rules Most Plaintiffs in Case Do Not Have Standing to Block Florida Stop W.O.K.E. Act

You've Reached Your
Free Article Limit This Month
Register for free to get unlimited access to all OnPractice content.
Register Now

There are two key cases pending before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida on Florida's "Stop W.O.K.E. Act": the Falls, et al. v. DeSantis, et al., matter (No. 4:22-cv-00166) and the, et al. v. DeSantis, et al., matter (No. 4:22-cv-00227). The Northern District of Florida has issued its first order on the Act, which went into effect on July 1, 2022.

In an Order Denying Preliminary Injunction, in Part, in the Falls matter, the court concluded that the K-12 teachers, the soon-to-be kindergartner, and the diversity and inclusion consultant who sued Governor Ron DeSantis and other officials to block the Stop W.O.K.E. Act did not have standing to pursue preliminary injunctive relief. The court reserved ruling pending additional briefing on the question of whether the college professor, who also sued, has standing.

Stop W.O.K.E. Act

The Stop W.O.K.E. Act expands an employer's civil liability for discriminatory employment practices under the Florida Civil Rights Act if the employer endorses certain concepts in a "nonobjective manner" during training or other required activity that is a condition of employment.

Court Order

In the Falls case, a diverse group of plaintiffs claiming they were regulated by the Stop W.O.K.E. Act filed a lawsuit challenging the Act on the grounds that it violates their First and Fourteenth Amendment Rights to free expression, academic freedom, and to access information.

The court, however, did not reach the question of constitutionality. It also did not determine whether the case can move forward, an issue that will be decided when the court rules on the defendants' pending motion to dismiss.

Instead, the court denied the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction on the threshold question of standing. It found the plaintiffs (other than the college professor) did not show they have suffered an injury-in-fact that is traceable to DeSantis or another defendant that can likely be redressed by a favorable ruling.

The court found the consultant is not an employer as defined by the Florida Civil Rights Act. Therefore, she could not assert standing on that basis. Instead, she argued she has third-party standing to assert the rights of the employers who would otherwise hire her, and she is harmed by the Act because employers will no longer hire her. The court rejected both theories, finding the consultant-employer relationship is not sufficiently "close" to create standing; employers are not hindered in raising their First Amendment rights on their own; and, based on the evidence presented, the court could not reasonably infer that the consultant has lost or will lose business because of the Act.

Importantly, the court specifically held that it was not ruling on the legality of the Act, whether it was moral, or whether it constituted good policy.

Private Employer

The court highlighted that the sister case pending in the Northern District of Florida ( involves a private employer under the Florida Civil Rights Act. In that case, the plaintiffs allege the Stop W.O.K.E. Act violates their right to free speech by restricting training topics and their due process rights by being unconstitutionally vague., Inc. and its co-plaintiffs request that the court enjoin enforcement of the law. The case has been transferred to District Court Judge Mark Walker. The case will likely have the largest effect on Florida employers and questions surrounding the enforceability of the Act as to diversity and inclusion training.


Since the Stop W.O.K.E. Act took effect, employers are understandably unclear how to proceed with training. Employers should continue to train their employees, but review their training programs on diversity, inclusion, bias, equal employment opportunity, and harassment prevention through the lens of the new law. Employers should also ensure they train the trainers who are conducting these important programs. Finally, employers should understand potential risks associated with disciplining or discharging employees who refuse to participate in mandatory training programs, even if employers do not consider the programs to violate the new law.

Jackson Lewis attorneys will follow developments on the Florida law (and be on the watch for similar legislation around the country) and are available for questions.

©2022 Jackson Lewis P.C. This material is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice nor does it create a client-lawyer relationship between Jackson Lewis and any recipient. Recipients should consult with counsel before taking any actions based on the information contained within this material. This material may be considered attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Focused on labor and employment law since 1958, Jackson Lewis P.C.'s 950+ attorneys located in major cities nationwide consistently identify and respond to new ways workplace law intersects business. We help employers develop proactive strategies, strong policies and business-oriented solutions to cultivate high-functioning workforces that are engaged, stable and diverse, and share our clients' goals to emphasize inclusivity and respect for the contribution of every employee. For more information, visit

ALM expressly disclaims any express or implied warranty regarding the OnPractice Content, including any implied warranty that the OnPractice Content is accurate, has been corrected or is otherwise free from errors.

More From Jackson Lewis P.C.

Challenging OSHA Violations at Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission Is Worth the Effort

By Melanie L. Paul Jackson Lewis P.C. May 26 , 2023

It is more important than ever that employers understand the serious long-term, non-monetary consequences of settling or accepting Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) citations.

New Washington Law Regulates Warehouse Distribution Center Worker Quotas

By Kathryn J. Barry Jackson Lewis P.C. May 26 , 2023

A new Washington law regulating employers’ use of production quotas or production standards for employees working at warehouse distribution centers (House Bill 1762) will go into effect on July 1, 2024.

Sixth Circuit Adopts New Standard to Decide Whether to Send Notice to Potential FLSA Opt-Ins

By David R. Golder Jackson Lewis P.C. May 24 , 2023

In a highly anticipated decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has ruled it will not use the lenient, two-step procedure in deciding whether to authorize sending notice of a collective action to other workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

More From Litigation

SCOTUS to Warhol Foundation: Your Use of Previously Licensed Work Isn't Fair

By Steven J. Wadyka Jr. Greenberg Traurig May 26 , 2023

On May 18, 2023, the United States Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. v. Goldsmith, a case that presented the Court with an opportunity to bring clarity to the often highly subjective standards lower courts apply when deciding the issue of fair use of visual works of art under copyright law.

Supreme Court Issues Decision Sharply Limiting Clean Water Act Jurisdiction over Wetlands

By Bernadette M. Rappold Greenberg Traurig May 26 , 2023

Sometimes the most monumental Supreme Court decisions spring from the most modest facts.

The New York Court of Appeals: A Triumph of Merit Selection

By Henry M. Greenberg Greenberg Traurig May 25 , 2023

The current court is a triumph of the merit selection process that New Yorkers voted for in 1977.

Featured Stories