The Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs offered some official guidance this week about the White House’s controversial and confusing Executive Order 13950 against race and sex “stereotyping” and “scapegoating.” The order — which has resulted in college events, including a Hispanic Heritage Month talk, getting canceled — takes effect “immediately,” but requirements for federal contractors and subcontractors will apply to contracts entered into starting Nov. 21.
The Labor Department defines race or sex stereotyping as “ascribing character traits, values, moral and ethical codes, privileges, status or beliefs to an entire race or sex, or to individuals because of their race or sex.” It defines race or sex scapegoating as “assigning fault, blame, or bias to a race or sex, or to members of a race or sex, because of their race or sex.” This encompasses “any claim that, consciously or unconsciously, and by virtue of their race or sex, members of any race are inherently racist or are inherently inclined to oppress others, or that members of a sex are inherently sexist or inclined to oppress others.”
As for whether the order prohibits unconscious or implicit bias training, the new guidance said this training is “prohibited to the extent it teaches or implies that an individual, by virtue of his or her race, sex and/or national origin, is racist, sexist, oppressive or biased, whether consciously or unconsciously.” Training is allowed if it is “designed to inform workers, or foster discussion, about pre-conceptions, opinions, or stereotypes that people — regardless of their race or sex — may have regarding people who are different, which could influence a worker’s conduct or speech and be perceived by others as offensive.”
Many in academe have criticized the order as censorship. The American Council on Education and dozens of other college and university groups on Thursday sent President Trump a letter of opposition to the order, saying, “We strongly oppose race and sex stereotyping, which inhibits efforts to build more inclusive workplaces and communities. But the timing, content and discordant tone of your Executive Order is creating concern, confusion and uncertainty for federal contractors and grant recipients across the country.”
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