First lawsuit filed against president's anti-bias training ban order

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the National Urban League and National Fair Housing Alliance have filed a class action lawsuit to try and stop President Trump's executive order that bans certain anti-bias training. The lawsuit includes government contractors as part of the class those groups are representing.

Legal salvo number one in the fight over President Trump’s executive order banning certain anti-bias and discrimination training has been fired by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, National Urban League and National Fair Housing Alliance.

The three organizations have joined together in a class action lawsuit that names President Trump, Labor Department and Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia as defendants. The filing with U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. also describes federal contractors and federal grant recipients as part of the class the lawsuit represents.

The lawsuit asks the court to find the executive order unlawful and invalid, as well as to issue a permanent injunction. The groups also are asking to be reimbursed for attorney fees and expenses as well as any other relief that the court deems proper.

The 60-page document lays out the importance of teaching U.S. history, particularly around slavery and the long record of discrimination that continues against African Americans and other minorities as well as women and members of the LGBTQ community.

The groups also cite examples of how the executive order will damage contractors and grant recipients in addition to the order being an unconstitutional infringement of the First Amendment.

“It is chillingly punitive, requiring contractors, subcontractors, vendors, and potentially grantees, to comply with exacting speech limitations and submit to the government all plans for diversity and inclusion training to ensure the demand for censorship is satisfied, or risk termination of their contract,” the groups wrote in their statement announcing the lawsuit.

One enforcement mechanism in the executive is that contractors found to be in violation of the order can have contracts cancelled, as well as suspensions or disbarments from pursuing future work. But it currently is unclear how the order will be enforced.

Industry and agencies are in a holding pattern of sorts until the government issues a class deviation that will add new requirements to existing contracts banning certain anti-bias and discrimination training. The deviation is expected by Nov. 21, a deadline for compliance set in the executive order.

All contracts will have the new requirements going forward.

The lawsuit also raises many concerns and complaints I have heard. Many terms in the executive order are not sufficiently described or defined like “workplace training,” “divisive concepts” and “fundamentally racists.”

The lack of clarity in the order has created uncertainty and confusion in the marketplace among both contractors and government agencies. There are numerous reports of training being put on hold or being out right cancelled for fear that it will violate the executive order.

For example, the State and Veterans Affairs Departments have all cancelled training sessions even though there is no evidence the training violated the executive order, the lawsuit states. So too has the Environmental Protection Agency.

The lawsuit was filed Oct. 29. No response yet from the Trump administration.


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