The National Sea Grant Law Center


  • Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping

  • November 4th, 2020 — by Philip Lott — Category: Miscellaneous

  • On September 22, 2020, President Trump signed “Executive Order 13950 on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping,” which purports to set aside workplace diversity training across the country that is “inherently sexist and racist.” The order states that its purpose is “to promote economy and efficiency in Federal contracting, to promote unity in the Federal workplace, and to combat offensive and anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating.” In addition to the authority vested in him by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, the President issued the order with the authority given to him by the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act, 40 U.S.C. 101 et seq.

    While agencies are assessing the order, many diversity trainings have been set aside. The Justice Department suspended all diversity and inclusion training in early October, and institutions like the University of Memphis and the University of Iowa have suspended training programs out of fear of losing federal research grants.

    The order pointed to a recent Treasury Department seminar which promoted arguments that “virtually all White people, regardless of how woke they are, contribute to racism,” and instructed small group leaders to encourage employees to avoid “narratives” that Americans should “be more color-blind” or “let people’s skills and personalities be what differentiates them.” While the order acknowledges that “[t]raining employees to create an inclusive workplace is appropriate and beneficial,” it argues that “training like that discussed above perpetuates racial stereotypes and division and can use subtle coercive pressure to ensure conformity of viewpoint[,]” ultimately suggesting that training like this has “no place in programs and activities supported by Federal taxpayer dollars” because it “reinforces biases and decreases opportunities for minorities.”

    Sections 3, 4, 5, and 6 of the order respectively specify the training requirements for the United States Uniformed Services, government contractors, federal grant programs, and federal agencies. The United States Uniformed Services are prohibited from the teaching, instructing, or training of the “Divisive Concepts” defined in section 2 and protected from penalty or discrimination on account of their refusal to support these concepts. The United States Uniformed Services includes the United States Armed Forces (Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Space Force), the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps. Contractors are prohibited from using “any workplace training that inculcates in its employees any form of race or sex stereotyping or any form of race or sex scapegoating […].” Sections 7 and 8 give authority to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Review of Agency Training, the Attorney General, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to review and assess training programs for compliance with the requirements of the order.

    Section 5’s requirements for federal grant programs specifically gives authority to the heads of the agencies responsible for their respective grant programs. The head of an agency:

    • (a) one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex;

    • (b) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously;

    • (c) an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex;

    • (d) members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex;

    • (e) an individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex;

    • (f) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex;

    • (g) any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex; or

    • (h) meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by a particular race to oppress another race.

    The order requires the heads of agencies to submit a report to the Director of the OMB that lists all grant programs certifying that the programs will not use Federal funds to promote these concepts. Therefore, agencies are expected to reach out to their respective grant programs for this certification as a result of the Executive Order requirement. The order concludes in section 10 that it “does not prevent agencies, the United States Uniformed Services, or contractors from promoting racial, cultural, or ethnic diversity or inclusiveness, provided that such efforts are consistent with the requirements of [the] order.” The entire Executive Order can be viewed here.

  • Philip Lott
    NSGLC Research Associate

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