Florida’s Stop Woke Law Is Sedated—Judge Blocks Law Limiting Workplace Bias Trainings

On August 18, 2022, U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker issued a preliminary injunction blocking part of a Florida’s H.B. 7, known as the Individual Freedom Act (IFA), which prohibits employers from requiring employees to undergo a training “that espouses, promotes, advances, inculcates, or compels” employees to believe any of various sex- and race-based discrimination concepts.

Nonbinary Pronoun Usage in the Workplace: What Employers Are Doing to Promote Inclusivity

Using the correct pronouns and honorifics in the workplace has become an increasingly important part of maintaining an inclusive workplace. At the same time, the sensitive nature of this trend and the many variations of pronouns and honorifics in use may leave employers confused as to how to accomplish that goal. Moreover, employers may be concerned with how to comply with employees’ requests in an ever-evolving space and with the increasing use of nonbinary pronouns.

Illinois Enacts Law Banning Racial Discrimination Based on Hairstyle or Hair Texture

On July 1, 2022, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law Senate Bill (SB) 3616, also known as the CROWN Act. The CROWN (“Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair”) Act (Public Act 102-1102) amends the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) to expand the definition of “race” for the purposes of combatting unlawful discrimination in Illinois.

Employee Activism, Safety, and Support Amid Difficult Issues

Recent social and political controversies, such as rulings from the Supreme Court of the United States, international conflicts, and mass shootings, are likely to cause more employees to voice their opinions and frustrations both in and outside the workplace, whether through conversations, social media, or participation in marches, protests, and similar events.

Minnesota Legislative Update: Employment-Related Bills to Watch

The Minnesota Legislature, currently in regular session until mid- to late May 2022, has drafted various bills that may impact Minnesota employers and employees. Notably, some of the major bills under consideration (or already enacted) include a hair antidiscrimination bill, a measure extending the COVID-19 presumption of workers’ compensation eligibility for certain healthcare workers, and a proposal to restrict noncompete agreements.

Juneteenth Is a Federal Holiday: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Tips for Proactive Employers

In the wake of an increased focus on racial justice in the summer of 2020, many employers began to recognize and observe Juneteenth as a way to demonstrate their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. On June 17, 2021—25 years after the first bill to recognize Juneteenth was introduced—President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, designating Juneteenth as the 11th federally recognized public holiday.

Oregon Enacts Employment Protections for Hairstyles and Other Physical Characteristics Historically Associated With Race

On June 11, 2021, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed into law House Bill 2935, also known as the CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair), joining several other states in explicitly prohibiting employers and public schools from discriminating against individuals based on physical characteristics historically associated with race, including hair texture and protective hairstyles.

Nasdaq Amends Proposed Rule on Board Diversity to Provide Compliance Flexibility

On December 1, 2020, Nasdaq filed a proposed rule with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that would require certain Nasdaq-listed companies to have at least two diverse directors (according to self-reported gender, race, and sexual orientation) or explain why the company has not been able to meet the proposed minimum diversity standards, and disclose certain board diversity-related statistics.

A Year Into the COVID-19 Pandemic: What Have We Learned About Workplaces and What Does the Future Hold?

March 2021 marks one year since the beginning of state-mandated stay-at-home orders and workplace shutdowns due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has caused the most significant disruption to workplaces in generations, and not just in terms of barking dogs, homeschooling, gate-crashers at virtual meetings, and sweat pants. The pandemic forced employers and employees to quickly pivot and change. Many of these changes will undoubtedly impact the workplace for years to come. The following is a roundup of 10 ways in which the pandemic may have a lasting influence on how we work.

Connecticut Enacts the CROWN Act Banning Discrimination Based on Ethnic Traits

On March 4, 2021, Governor Ned Lamont signed legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of ethnic traits historically associated with race. The CROWN Act (Bill No. 6515), also known as the “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair” Act, amends the definition of race in the state’s anti-discrimination laws to be “inclusive of ethnic traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.”

Equality Act Reintroduced to U.S. Congress

On February 18, 2021, U.S. Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) reintroduced the Equality Act (H.R. 5), a bill that would amend federal law (including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Although the U.S. House of Representatives passed a nearly identical version of the Equality Act in 2019,  the bill never gained traction in the U.S. Senate and died in committee.

Biden Administration Revokes Diversity Training Restrictions and Takes Further Actions to Address Diverse Groups

President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s flurry of executive actions upon his inauguration into office signals diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) as a significant area of focus for the administration. As of January 26, 2021, President Biden has signed a total of more than 40 executive orders and actions aimed at addressing and reversing some of the most controversial orders of the prior administration, including a number of actions addressing DE&I matters. One of these—Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government (Executive Order (EO) 13985)—includes the much-anticipated revocation of EO 13950’s ban on diversity training content for federal agencies, contractors, and grant recipients.

On Day One of the Biden Administration, a Flurry of Executive Orders

Joseph R. Biden Jr. was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on January 20, 2021. President Biden hit the ground running, issuing 17 executive orders, proclamations, memoranda, and similar actions on his first day. Many of these presidential actions have impacts that go beyond the day-to-day activities of the workplace, but employers may still want to have an understanding of these policy changes. Set forth below is a summary of the actions that President Biden took on his first day in office.

UK Publishes Updated Guidances on Gender Pay Gap Reporting Requirements

As the 4 April 2021, gender pay gap reporting deadline approaches, the UK government has published an updated set of guidance for employers on the gender pay gap reporting requirements. Although the reporting requirements have not changed, the guidance has been updated to include information for employers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular relating to furlough leave and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

CROWN Act Ordinance: New Orleans Enacts Law to Prohibit Hairstyle Discrimination

On December 22, 2020, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell signed into law the CROWN Act (Calendar No. 33,184). The new law prohibits employment discrimination in the City of New Orleans based on hairstyles. The law is modeled after federal legislation introduced in January 2020—the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act (CROWN Act)—designed to correct racial and cultural inequities by making hair discrimination illegal in the United States.

Race and Sex Stereotyping Executive Order Subject to Preliminary Injunction

Some anticipate that President-elect Joseph Biden will revoke the Trump administration’s Executive Order (EO) 13950 that restricts the content of certain diversity-related workplace trainings. On December 22, 2020, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued a nationwide preliminary injunction in the case of Santa Cruz Lesbian and Gay Community Center d/b/a The Diversity Center of Santa Cruz v. Trump, holding that the plaintiffs had demonstrated (among other things) a sufficient likelihood of success on their claims that EO 13950 is unconstitutional on its face. The order, which went into effect immediately and on a nationwide basis, allows private federal contractors and federal grant recipients to conduct workplace training programs and related activities without facing penalties for “stereotyping” or “scapegoating” under EO 13950. While the injunction does not impact trainings provided to federal employees, on December 22, 2020, a group of U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) employees circulated a letter calling for an official investigation into EO 13950 and related executive branch actions targeting diversity-and-inclusion programs.

Civil Rights Lawsuit Filed to Strike Down EO 13950

On October 29, 2020, the National Urban League and the National Fair Housing Alliance (represented by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.) filed a complaint challenging the constitutionality of Executive Order (EO) 13950 and asking for injunctive and declaratory relief. The plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and a proposed class that includes federal contractors that the EO impacts, brought the lawsuit against the president, the secretary of Labor, and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).