President Prohibits Certain Employee Training

Employment Law


A new executive order signed by President Donald Trump has banned the teaching of “divisive concepts” and “race or sex scapegoating” as part of the training for federal employees and contractors.

In the “Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping,” released in late September, the President wrote that certain people are pushing a vision of the country that “is rooted in the pernicious and false belief that America is an irredeemably racist and sexist country; that some people, simply on account of their race or sex, are oppressors; and that racial and sexual identities are more important than our common status as human beings and Americans.” The President used the following as examples of inappropriate training: Training materials from Argonne National Laboratories, a federal entity, stated that racism “is interwoven into every fabric of America” and described statements like “color blindness” and the “meritocracy” as “actions of bias,” and a recent seminar held by the Department of Treasury “promoted arguments that ‘virtually all White people, regardless of how ‘woke’ they are, contribute to racism.’” The executive order claims that this type of training perpetuates racial stereotypes and division and can use coercion to ensure conformity of a viewpoint.

Therefore, the President banned these types of training, claiming they are teaching “divisive concepts” and alleging they are defined to include the idea that the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist.

The executive order also prohibits from trainings “race or sex scapegoating,” where fault, blame or bias is assigned because of someone’s race or sex, as well as “any claim that, consciously or unconsciously, and by virtue of his or her race or sex, members of any race are inherently racist or are inclined to oppress others.”

According to the executive order, diversity and inclusion trainings should not cease, and federal contractors and agencies should “continue to foster environments devoid of hostility grounded in race, sex, and other federally protected characteristics.” The executive order also states: “Training employees to create an inclusive workplace is appropriate and beneficial. The federal government is, and must always be, committed to the fair and equal treatment of all individuals before the law.”

The executive order applies to executive departments and agencies, uniformed services, federal contractors, and federal grant recipients. In the event of noncompliance, a contract may be canceled, terminated or suspended in whole or in part, or the contractor may be declared ineligible for further government contracts.

To help with enforcement, the President directed the Department of Labor (through the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs) to establish a hotline and investigate complaints that prohibited training programs are being used. “The Department shall take appropriate enforcement action and provide remedial relief, as appropriate,” according to the executive order.

To read the Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping, click here.

Why it matters: The executive order purports to take immediate effect, although it appears to apply only to new federal contracts entered into beginning on November 21, 2020, and exclude existing contracts. Employers that are subject to the order may face a challenge in fulfilling their obligations under local, state and federal equal opportunity laws without running afoul of the order’s prohibitions.

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