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Politics

Tech companies urge Trump to rescind ban on diversity training

They're stepping up their battle against a recent executive order.

President Trump in front of American flags

Under the order, the Department of Labor is required to develop rules and build out an enforcement and auditing team to hold companies to the new standards over the next 60 days.

Photo: Brian Blanco/Getty Images

A coalition representing thousands of tech and advertising companies — including Google, Amazon and Microsoft — on Friday urged the Trump administration to rescind its ban on diversity training.

In a letter to the Department of Labor, the multi-industry group said the executive order, which would effectively ban most D&I training, amounts to an "unwarranted intrusion into private sector efforts to combat systemic racism."

"Broadly, this EO would undo progress made toward promoting racial equity and ensuring American businesses can attract the diverse talent they need to remain best-in-class," they wrote.

The coalition, which is led by the Information Technology Industry Council, includes the Internet Association, TechNet, the Entertainment Software Association and the American Association of Advertising Agencies, alongside other prominent tech groups. They have been quietly working to mobilize against the Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping since Trump signed it last month.

The order prohibits federal contractors from offering most kinds of D&I training. It's only the latest move in the Trump administration's battle against the spread of "race-based ideologies," or education that treats racial inequality as a pivotal force in American society. "This ideology is rooted in the pernicious and false belief that America is an irredeemably racist and sexist country," the executive order says.

The order's critics and lawyers say it could force companies with large federal contracts to decide between maintaining their multimillion-dollar deals with the government or continuing to hold educational workshops for employees about issues like unconscious bias and white supremacy.

The Department of Labor "supports the new executive order," a spokesperson told Protocol. "Race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating in training programs is prohibited by the new executive order," the spokesperson said. "Such training is contrary to the basic principles underlying equal employment opportunity (EEO). [DOL] is confident that federal contractors will be able to readily comply with the order as part of their EEO compliance programs." The department has set up a phone and email hotline to receive complaints about D&I programs that might violate the executive order.

It's likely that the executive order will be challenged in court. Jason Oxman, the president of ITI, told Protocol last month that legal action was one of multiple responses they are considering.

Update: This story has been updated to include comment from the Department of Labor.

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Photo: David Vives/Unsplash

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Emily Birnbaum

Emily Birnbaum ( @birnbaum_e) is a tech policy reporter with Protocol. Her coverage focuses on the U.S. government's attempts to regulate one of the most powerful industries in the world, with a focus on antitrust, privacy and politics. Previously, she worked as a tech policy reporter with The Hill after spending several months as a breaking news reporter. She is a Bethesda, Maryland native and proud Kenyon College alumna.

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Photo: Google for Startups

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Photo: McKinsey and Protocol

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