Federal Judge Declares 'Stop WOKE' Act Unconstitutional
Workspan Daily
August 26, 2022

A Florida judge has declared that a Florida law restricting race-based conversation and analysis in the workplace and in educational settings, championed by the state’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, is unconstitutional. 

Tallahassee U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said in a 44-page ruling that the “Stop WOKE” act violates the First Amendment and is impermissibly vague. Walker also refused to issue a stay that would keep the law in effect during any appeal by the state. 

The law targets what DeSantis has called a “pernicious” ideology exemplified by critical race theory — the idea that racism is systemic in U.S. institutions that serve to perpetuate white dominance in society. 

Walker said the law, as applied to diversity, inclusion and bias training in businesses, turns the First Amendment “upside down” because the state is barring speech by prohibiting discussion of certain concepts in training programs. 

“If Florida truly believes we live in a post-racial society, then let it make its case,” the judge wrote. “But it cannot win the argument by muzzling its opponents.” 

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment, according to NBC News, noting that “DeSantis has repeatedly said any losses at the lower court level on his priorities are likely to be reversed by appeals courts that are generally more conservative.” 

Tesla to Face Lawsuit Alleging Racial Discrimination and Harassment 

A California state court judge has denied Tesla Inc's request to throw out a lawsuit filed by the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) that accuses the electric-vehicle maker of “fostering racial discrimination and harassment at its [Fremont, Calif.] factory,” Bloomberg Law reports.  

The suit describes the Fremont plant, located in the San Francisco Bay Area, as a “racially segregated workplace,” and the DFEH says it saw complaints from hundreds of Black workers and has uncovered evidence of these employees being subjected to mistreatment, including harassment, unequal pay and retaliation at the Fremont location.  

According to the suit, Black workers at Tesla complained to the DFEH that they heard racial slurs as often as 50 to 100 times a day while at work, in addition to spotting racist graffiti on restroom walls, workstations, lunch tables and other areas.  

Tesla issued a statement before the DFEH filed the suit earlier this year, calling the claims “misguided” while noting that the company “strongly opposes all forms of discrimination and harassment.” The organization “has always disciplined and terminated employees who engage in misconduct, including those who use racial slurs or harass others in different ways,” according to the February 2022 Tesla blog post, which also references a Tesla training program designed to reinforce the company’s requirement “that all employees must treat each other with respect and reminds employees about the numerous ways they can report concerns, including anonymously.”  

Attitudes Toward Employers’ 'Age-Friendliness' Differ, According to Surveys  

A pair of surveys conducted by the Transamerica Institute and its Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies (TCRS) finds more than two-thirds of employers viewing their organizations as being “age-friendly,” with fewer employees feeling the same way about the companies that employ them.  

In two separate polls, the Transamerica Institute surveyed nearly 1,900 executives who make decisions about employee benefits, with a separate survey garnering responses from more than 5,400 employed adults. In the former survey, most employers (84%) said they consider their companies to be “age-friendly” by offering opportunities, work arrangements, and training and tools for employees of all ages to be successful. However, only 65% of employees responding in the latter poll expressed the same sentiment about their employers.  

These organizations are “embracing a multigenerational workforce in some respects, but, in other ways, they have not yet addressed the opportunity,” according to a statement summarizing findings from the surveys.  

For example, eight in 10 offer one or more programs to support caregiving employees, including unpaid leave of absence (37%), paid leave of absence (31%), online resources and/or tools (27%), an employee assistance program that offers counseling and referral services (23%), and a benefit that offers referrals to backup care (22%). 

Three in 10 have a formal phased retirement program with specific provisions and requirements (31%). Regardless of whether they offer a formal program, some employers have work-related programs to help pre-retirees transition including flexible work schedules and arrangements (44%), the ability to reduce hours and shift from full-time to part-time (36%), and the ability to take on less stressful or demanding jobs (34%).  

“Employers play a vital societal role by providing employment, employee benefits, and the ability for workers to save and invest for a secure retirement,” said Catherine Collinson, CEO and president of the Transamerica Institute and TCRS. “Especially now, amid the ongoing effects of the pandemic, employers need support from policymakers to make it as easy as possible to modernize their business practices, expand their benefit offerings, and address the evolving needs of their employees.”  

McKinsey: Independent Workers are Optimistic About Future Prospects 

A new analysis from McKinsey finds gig workers expressing enthusiasm about their professional outlook in the days ahead.  

The global management consulting firm’s latest American Opportunity Survey polled more than 25,000 Americans. Overall, 36% of respondents self-identified as independent workers — equivalent to 58 million Americans when extrapolated from the representative sample, according to McKinsey. The number of survey participants identifying as an independent worker — defined as a contract, freelance, temporary or gig worker — represents an 11% increase in comparison to McKinsey’s 2016 assessment of America’s independent workforce.  

More than a third of these gig workers say they expect to have more economic opportunities in the next 12 months, compared to a fifth of other workers reporting the same. In addition, more than 40% of independent workers indicated that continuous economic growth in five years is likely, while roughly a third of other respondents said as much.  

In a summary of the survey’s findings, McKinsey described independent workers’ optimism as “remarkable” in the face of the hardships they encounter, such as a lack of access to affordable healthcare. Such realities do find many independent workers (54%) concerned about the stability of their employment, whereas just 35% of permanent workers share the same uncertainty.   

Still, “freelance and contract work, gigs and side hustles are growing features of the modern workforce,” according to McKinsey. “Companies and organizations that rely on independent workers are wise to consider the reasons why people are attracted to this type of work and to recognize the growing availability of flexible work in permanent employment. As more employees are able to work from home or on flexible schedules, fewer of them may be drawn to freelance or contract jobs that were once the sole provider of such arrangements.”  

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