Some Diversity Training Programs Are in Limbo After White House Order

A White House directive issued last month that prohibits federal agencies, companies with federal contracts, and recipients of federal grants from participating in training that “promotes race or sex-stereotyping or scapegoating” has prompted confusion and pushback from employers. In the presidential debate last week, President Trump said he signed the order because “they were teaching people that our country is a horrible place, it’s a racist place. And they were teaching people to hate our country. And I’m not gonna allow that to happen.”

KEY TAKEAWAYS
1. The order could affect many major U.S. companies, universities and hospitals.

Companies that have federal contracts, and universities and hospitals that receive federal grants are among those that could be affected.

2. Some companies are pausing programs.

Some companies are putting diversity training on pause, while several federal agencies have canceled scheduled events as they try to understand the directive. Trade groups representing pharmaceutical makers, technology giants and advertising agencies have issued statements protesting President Trump’s executive order. They say the order attacks free speech and undermines workplace equity. 

3. Diversity training programs have been offered for decades by public and private employers.

Some have increasingly focused on topics like “anti-racism” and “white privilege” following protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in May, diversity professionals say. Many companies and government agencies have been scheduling listening sessions and other optional events for employees to share their feelings on these issues. The government has never before tried to regulate the content of companies’ diversity training, said Jim Paretti, a partner at employment law firm Littler Mendelson and a former chief of staff at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

4. The executive order quotes materials used at different agencies that it says are pushing “divisive concepts.”

The examples draw from the writings of Christopher Rufo, a conservative researcher, and include a recent seminar organized by the U.S. Treasury. In an opinion article published in The Wall Street Journal, Rufo argued that these training sessions aren’t about racial sensitivity but are about an ideological agenda. Howard Ross, the diversity consultant who participated in the Treasury seminar, said it was optional and that his training and events focus on teaching empathy and creating a culture of belonging. He said a diversity office at the Treasury invited speakers after Floyd’s killing because white leaders were asking for ways to support their Black colleagues. A spokeswoman for the Treasury declined to comment.

Read the original article by Khadeeja Safdar and Lauren Weber here.

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