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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Trump expands ban on bias training to GovCon companies

The Trump administration has expanded its ban on training it deems as "anti-American" by adding restrictions on the training government contractors provide to their employees.

The ban first applied only to training agencies provided its government employees. But in an executive order issued Tuesday, the administration expanded it to include contractors as well as individuals and organizations receiving federal grants.

The order also mandates prime contractors extend the ban to their subcontractors by including language in subcontracts and purchase orders.

President Trump touted the expansion in a pair of tweets Tuesday.

In the executive order, the White House describes characteristics of what it calls training and education that is divisive and that promotes sexual and racial stereotyping.

Banned are the teaching of concepts that promote that one race or sex is “inherently superior to another race or sex” or that an individual is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive. The order also calls for a ban on any training or education that promotes that an individual should be discriminated against because of their race or sex.

The executive order calls out training that promotes that an individual bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.

Contractors also need to give notice to labor unions telling them about the executive order and the order needs to be posted in workplaces where it can be easily seen or read.

Failure to comply with the order can result in a contract being cancelled or suspended.

The executive order is part of Trump’s response to the rise in social justice related protests and other actions in the wake of the killings of George Floyd and other African Americans by police officers.

Trump disagrees with the belief that U.S. society suffers from systemic racism and the executive reflects that perspective in strong terms, calling it a “malign ideology.”

“This ideology 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 executive order states.

In the wake of Floyd's death, many government contractors have undertaken initiatives to address social justice issues, including increasing the training employees receive around issues such as unconscious bias.

Even before Floyd's death, many government contractors had programs to increase diversity and inclusiveness in the companies. For many, it is seen as a core value of their companies. There also is increasing evidence that the more diverse a company is, the likely it is to be successful.

How the executive order impacts these types of programs by contractors is unclear. Most of the contractors I’ve reached out to have declined to comment.

But Serco Inc. offered this statement:

“We value and are committed to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. We are now reviewing the president’s executive order to determine if it does apply to our current training efforts.”

As another source said, it is too soon to really tell. Companies are parsing the language in the executive order and waiting for more guidance.

It sounds like many companies have the same questions I do:

  • How do you know if your training or other initiatives violates the executive order?
  • Who will monitor for compliance?
  • How will it be enforced?

We’ll continue to track this and see how companies respond.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Sep 23, 2020 at 2:16 PM

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