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Civil rights groups over block diversity training order

Three civil rights groups are suing the Trump administration in federal court to block the implementation of an executive order that cracked down on "divisive concepts" in federal and contractor diversity and inclusion training.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, National Urban League and the National Fair Housing Alliance are requesting an injunction to block the order from taking effect. The NUL and NFHA are suing in their capacity as federal contractors and grant recipients. They argue that the order unconstitutionally forces them to choose "between censoring speech on these important issues or forfeiting any opportunity to enter into a federal contract … or to receive federal funds as a grant recipient."

The lawsuit also alleges that the administration made the executive order with an intent to discriminate against individuals based on race, gender, or sexual orientation, and therefore violates due process.

The order and related memos look to purge diversity and inclusion training of "divisive concepts" in the federal workforce, listed including "white privilege" and "critical race theory." The order extends to trainings in federal agencies and in the workplace of federal contractors.

The executive order is set to take effect for federal contractors on Nov. 21, but the lawsuit is seeking immediate relief.

"Regardless of whatever dates or deadlines are in the executive order, the chilling effect is happening now," said Jin Hee Lee, the senior deputy director of litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Cancellations of diversity and inclusion training sessions and changes to the language in requests for training are already occurring, she said, and the choice between compliance with the order or ineligibility for entities seeking future contracts or grants is present now.

"The order is an unvarnished attempt to strip Americans of their freedoms of speech and expression," Janai Nelson, the Legal Defense Fund's Associate Director-Counsel said in a blog post about the lawsuit. "President Trump's revisionist history and desire to preserve the systemic inequalities that continue to punish women and communities of color must not be allowed to stand."

"Because NUL has been considered a subject matter expert in diversity concepts that the order targets, NUL is less likely to be awarded future contracts or grants due to its visible alignment with (and promotion of) these disfavored concepts," the groups argued in the lawsuit.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund also submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Office of Management and Budget earlier this month for documents related to the development of the order and its implementation.

Appropriators look to restore diversity training at USAID

A group of House Democrats on the Appropriations committee are asking the Trump administration to rescind the decision to pause all diversity and inclusion training in the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

"Given the Department's longstanding challenges to expand opportunities for people of color in its workforce, the Department should be expanding all programs with a demonstrated contribution to strengthening diversity, including training," the lawmakers said in an Oct. 30 letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Signatories include Reps. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), David Price (D-N.C.), Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) and Norma Torres (D-Calif.).

"Year after year, the Committee on Appropriations has provided both resources and direction to the Department and USAID to expand workforce diversity and to report on the status of such efforts," the members wrote in the letter. "The suspension of diversity and inclusion training demonstrates a lack of commitment from Department leadership to fully pursue this Congressionally mandated mission."

Reader comments

Tue, Nov 10, 2020

I do not think that one needs to be trained on government time and resources how to be respectful to others one comes into contact. This is something that most common sense individuals know what is appropriate and what is wrong when it is part of proper behavior. The management scum and political appointees do not have concept of what is fair or even what may constitute a conflict of interest. The Obama and Clinton administrations had numerous political appointees such as Hillary Clinton who directed subordinates to destroy government furnished equipment like cell phones, used out side computer servers and this was all washed under the rug. She made out well with donations from her state department foreign contacts that went to her questionable foundation. It is time that all political appointees and management go through extended training on what is a conflict of interest and hold them to high standards. If they choose to ignore conflicts of interest they should be prosecuted and face stiff monetary fines and jail time. The American tax payer sees this noise going on a daily basis.

Tue, Nov 3, 2020 Sergio CA

What does an instructor stating their opinion about the border have to do with this article on diversity training? If you are going to make a comment, stay on task and subject. Also, do not be afraid to at least put your name down. As far as this article, some changes need to be done to the training in higher levels. The training I have received doesn't mention anything that is being discussed. Our trainig teaches us how to treat everyone with respect and dignity.

Tue, Nov 3, 2020

A true waste of time for most individuals who have other important work to be done. A great way for the Beltway Bandits to enrichen their pockets by the happy feel good you are a bad bigoted person and you should feel ashamed. Or your family owned slaves! Really folks descended from eastern and central Europe never owned servants of any kind but that goes completely ignored. Political correctness is another fancy word for intolerance through stupidity.

Tue, Nov 3, 2020 Ned Silver Spring, Maryland

I can't believe I'm defending this administration, especially on the very day which I hope signals its end, but I do not consider the action to be entirely wrong. I have tried to participate in each of the many diversity and inclusion activities offered by my Department of Commerce bureau during a busy agenda in the wake of the death of George Floyd. The events have followed three tracks: white agency executives apologizing for their "unearned white privilege"; ostensibly academic, historical lectures that attempt to put the current environment in correct historic context; and storytelling. Only the third, storytelling, was truly effective. A "successful" (whatever that is or means) Hispanic entrepreneur shared the story of his life growing up under parents who were migrant farm workers. It contained elements of challenge, hard work, and disappointment, but he never attributed the challenge to his being Hispanic. The story was relatable, even inspirational. For anyone. Race was a non-issue. Families of all races and ethnicities have struggles. In contrast, overly apologist executives of questionable authenticity are not relatable. And, who gets to arbitrate the boundary between earned privilege and unearned privilege? In fact, I'm incapable of reconciling the apparent contradiction of why frequently used terms like "white privilege" are not themselves racist. My experience informs that not all whites are privileged. The categorical, unconditional censorship of the administration is wrong. Dialogue can, and should, occur to improve mutual understanding. And, in an era when so little of it is done, people need to listen.

Mon, Nov 2, 2020

As a retired U.S. federal employee this goes against every annual training I had during my 30 year career. This is a disgusting change that eliminates the goal of government agencies in an attempt to increase the diversity of employees which would give people of all backgrounds an opportunity to work for the federal government. This is appalling and I hope it gets immediately reversed by a lawsuit and/or the election of Joe Biden.

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