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BLOG: New Executive Order is a Major Step Backward for Racial Equality

On September 22, 2020, President Trump issued an Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping. In addition to restrictions on the internal diversity programs of Federal Agencies, the Executive Order (EO) prohibits federal government contractors from providing diversity training to their own employees in any manner that suggests America has a racial inequality problem.

ITI, on behalf of the technology industry, is deeply concerned with the substance of this EO and the message it sends about addressing systemic racism in American life. Fostering inclusion for individuals from historically marginalized communities is one of the core values of ITI and the greater tech industry. We know our industry has a long way to go in terms of addressing the harms of systemic racism. However, at a time when Americans are seeking racial justice more than ever, this EO instead attacks our broadly shared values and risks undoing real progress toward building racial equity in the tech industry and America writ large.

This EO is also an unprecedented overreach of the federal government into the activities and values of private businesses. It is a well-established tenet of government contract law that the government must not impose a supervisory relationship over contract employees. By restricting the information government contractors can use to train their employees, the Executive Branch is introducing a substantial new regulatory burden that will not only micro-manage private employer/employee relationships, but is potentially interfering with basic First Amendment rights.

By issuing this sweeping change via EO, the Administration bypassed the normal requirements for changing federal acquisition regulations. Typically, contracting rule changes involve many rounds of review and comment—but it’s unclear if the public will be afforded that chance here. This is especially concerning given the potential far-reaching impacts of the EO on federal contractors. A company violating the EO risks being banned from doing business with the government—a penalty typically reserved for offenses such as contract fraud or criminal activity.

ITI sees this EO as an affront to our industry’s core values, an attack on free enterprise and, most importantly, an unacceptable step backward for racial equity.

Public Policy Tags: Public Sector