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Breaking News: President Trump Issues Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping
Wednesday, September 23, 2020

On September 22, 2020 President Trump issued an Executive Order “on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping” (“September 22 EO”) covering government contractors and certain grant recipients that outlines what those organizations cannot include in employee training. It appears, the September 22 EO covers all federal contractors and subcontractors and will require contracting agencies to insert a contract clause in contracts (presumably, from the language of the EO new contracts only) entered into 60 days from September 22, 2020 addressing race and sex stereotyping.

Stemming from the belief that

[i]nstructors 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

the Order establishes a requirement that contractors and grant recipients not use any workplace training that

“inculcates in its employees” any form of race or sex stereotyping or any form of race or sex “scapegoating”

This includes prohibition on the following concepts:

  • one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex;

  • an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously;

  • an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex;

  • members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex;

  • an individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex;

  • an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex;

  • any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex; or

  • meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by a particular race to oppress another race.

Given this, the Executive Order could severely limit and curtail diversity and inclusion, sexual harassment, and related EEO training contractors and government grant recipients are allowed to provide to their employees.

Interesting, the September 22 EO does not include a provision that regulations be issued to implement its requirements.   However, importantly, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has been tapped as the Agency to enforce the Executive Order.  Per the Order, the Director of OFCCP is required to publish a request for information within 30 days of September 22 seeking from federal contractors and subcontractors information regarding training, workshops or “similar programming” provided to employees, and interesting, that those materials, as well as information about the expense, frequency, duration of the trainings be provided to OFCCP.  There is no detail or instruction as to what OFCCP is required to do with the submissions. However, the executive order states violators can be subject to contract suspension or termination and the contractor may be subject to suspension or debarment.

In addition, the September 22 EO requires all federal agency heads to review their grant programs, and identify in a report to be provided to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) within 60 days of issuance of September 22, programs that the agency determines as a condition of receiving grant monies that the recipient certify that it will not use federal funds to “promote the concepts” identified above with respect to federal government contractor prohibitions in training and related materials.

If fully implemented, the requirements of the Executive Order could require significant modifications to the content of trainings on race and sex including, diversity and inclusion and unconscious bias, that have become the mainstay for many employers, including contractors and grant recipients.  Some of these trainings are, or may be, required by other federal or state requirements, which could pose a conflict for contractors.

We anticipate challenges to this Executive Order.  We will be following this closely and will be back with future insights and developments.

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