Jessica Guyun, USA Today, January 7, 2021
The Labor Department has suspended enforcement of Donald Trump’s executive order restricting diversity training by government agencies and contractors that the president labeled “divisive” and “un-American” after a federal court judge blocked it.
Late last month U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman granted a preliminary nationwide injunction in a lawsuit filed by LGBT rights groups in the Northern District of California, saying the groups were likely to prevail on their First Amendment claims.
“Plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of success in proving violations of their constitutional rights,” Freeman wrote in a 34-page order. “Moreover, as the government itself acknowledges, the work Plaintiffs perform is extremely important to historically underserved communities.”
In guidance issued by the Labor Department on Monday, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs will stop investigating any agency or contractor suspected of violating the executive order and will take no enforcement action. A hotline set up to collect complaints will no longer be used.
The department “is fully complying with the preliminary injunction,” a Labor Department spokesperson told USA TODAY.
Trump’s executive order was seen by critics as a broadside against diversity and inclusion programs seeking to reverse patterns of discrimination and exclusion going back decades. The incoming Joe Biden administration is widely expected to scrap it.
Trump’s executive order, which affected government agencies, Fortune 500 companies, educational institutions, nonprofits and any others that have federal contracts or plan to apply for them, had an almost immediate chilling effect on reinvigorated efforts to address racial disparities in the workplace after the death of George Floyd, a Black man, under the knee of white officer in Minneapolis in May.
Democrats had called on the federal government to back off the order, calling it a political stunt. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; and 18 other senators sent a letter opposing the implementation of the executive order, saying it stifles “much-needed efforts in our states to reduce racial and sex-based discrimination.”
The executive order’s stated goal was “to combat offensive and anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating.”
The Labor Department previously told USA TODAY the elimination of “race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating in employment” was “a key civil rights priority of the Trump Administration.”
The target of Trump’s executive order was critical race theory, which teaches that racism pervades government and other American institutions, giving white people an advantage.