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The United Faculty of Florida union and three members who say the University of South Florida laid them off this month filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to restore their employment arbitration rights.

Ron DeSantis, Florida’s governor and a Republican presidential contender, signed Senate Bill 266 into law in May. That wide-ranging legislation has attracted attention for banning Florida public colleges and universities from spending state or federal money on diversity, equity and inclusion activities.

But the law also said faculty tenure, firings and other personnel decisions at public institutions can’t be arbitrated. The new federal lawsuit seeks to overturn that prohibition.

The plaintiffs say that a “public university faculty’s right to arbitrate adverse personnel decisions before a neutral arbiter” is a “material part” of their collective bargaining agreement with the University of South Florida.

“The arbitration ban denies the individual plaintiffs and other members of the union plaintiffs their due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment by imbuing public university presidents, who are not neutral arbiters, with unfettered power to deprive the individual plaintiffs and other members of the union plaintiffs of their property rights in continued employment,” the suit says.

A spokesman for the State University System of Florida, whose board members are among the defendants in the suit, said in an email Wednesday that “as a general rule, we do not comment on pending litigation.”

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