Donald Trump released his executive order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping September 22 in part to “combat offensive and anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating…”
“Instructors and materials teaching that men and members of certain races, as well as our most venerable institutions, are inherently sexist and racist are appearing in workplace diversity trainings across the country, even in components of the Federal Government and among Federal contractors,” the order reads.
Trump’s executive order impacts government agencies, Fortune 500 companies, educational institutions, nonprofits and others entities that tap federal contracts or plan to, USA Today reports. The Biden campaign could not be reached for comment, but “it’s highly probable that this executive order will be rescinded in fairly short order,” Franklin Turner, partner with law firm McCarter & English, tells USA Today.
Civil rights groups wasted no time in filing a lawsuit in late October alleging the order violates free speech rights in an "extraordinary and unprecedented act by the Trump administration to undermine efforts to foster diversity and inclusion in the workplace.”
The White House in a September memo targeted diversity training material and suggested eliminating keywords including "white privilege," "systemic racism," "intersectionality" and "unconscious bias.”
Microsoft and Wells Fargo are among the corporations that have seen their diversity initiatives questioned by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs as potentially violating federal laws that bar discrimination stemming from race. In both instances, these initiatives look to double the number the Black managers and executives over the next five years. “I suspect that a future President Biden would be more inclined to issue orders and/or to adopt policies that cultivate and encourage a diverse and inclusive American workforce that is fully informed by relevant, accurate information," Turner said.
The executive order also united many organizations in rejecting the measure, ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, The Washington Post reports. The American Hospital Association, in an October 14 letter to Trump, wrote that “prohibiting federal agencies from conducting and funding trainings that promote racial reconciliation is counterproductive to addressing racism.” The group represents almost 5,000 hospitals and health systems.
Jason Oxman, president of the Information Technology Industry Council, blasted the executive order. His group represents software and tech giants including Apple, Samsung and Amazon, which all co-signed a letter noting concerns about businesses’ First Amendment rights. “The federal government should not be in the business of dictating to companies how to talk to their employees about important societal issues and should certainly not be dissuading employees from endeavoring to address issues of systemic racism and racial discrimination,” Oxman said.
Jeff Neal, who runs the blog ChiefHRO.com, called the executive order one of five that Biden should immediately cancel once he officially becomes president January 20. Neal had earlier served as the chief human capital officer at the Department of Homeland Security and the chief human resources officer at the Defense Logistics Agency. Neal called the order “a hyperpartisan appeal to President Donald Trump’s base…”
“It denies the realities of systemic racism, using inflammatory language and, ironically, stereotyping the views of proponents of diversity and inclusion training,” Neal wrote. “It interferes with the ability of agencies and contractors to promote diversity and inclusion. Given the substantial research that demonstrates the benefits of a diverse workplace and the measurable effects of systemic racism, this EO is a significant step backwards. It should be rescinded and any actions taken to implement it reversed.”
David J. Goldstein, co-chair of Littler Mendelson P.C.’s office of federal contract compliance programs practice group, writes in Bloomberg Law that while the executive order is likely to be rescinded quickly under the Biden Administration, its issuance has likely caused damage. “Unfortunately, even after rescission, there will likely be some repercussions, as at least some employees continue to feel empowered to disrupt or resist training as a result of the rhetoric in and surrounding the order,” Goldstein writes.