Ropes & Gray, Lambda Legal Represent Plaintiffs in Challenge to Trump Administration Policy Prohibiting Workplace Diversity Trainings

In The News
November 3, 2020

Ropes & Gray, serving as co-counsel with Lambda Legal, filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s executive order prohibiting federal contractors and grantees from conducting workplace diversity trainings. The executive order also prevents those entities from engaging in grant-funded work that explicitly acknowledges and confronts the existence of structural racism and sexism in our society. The order describes trainings that cover topics such as implicit bias or critical race theory as divisive and un-American, and directs agencies to suspend or deny funding to contractors and grantees whose trainings or grant-funded activities cover these topics.

The Executive Order, issued September 22, and later Trump administration guidance labels the discussion of intersectionality, critical race theory, white privilege, systemic racism, or implicit or unconscious bias in diversity training as “race and sex scapegoating” and forbids agencies from “promot[ing]” these “divisive concepts.” It directs agency heads to audit internal training curricula and discontinue these trainings, and to conduct a similar audit of federal contractors, putting those contracts at risk.

Ropes & Gray and Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of six organizational plaintiffs, a consulting company, and an individual plaintiff.

The organizational plaintiffs include: the Los Angeles LGBT Center; The Diversity Center in Santa Cruz, CA; AIDS Foundation of Chicago; CrescentCare in New Orleans, LA; Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, PA; and SAGE, based in New York City. The consultancy is B. Brown Consulting, a Michigan-based business with a federal contract to train correctional facility staff, governmental agencies, and nonprofits.

The individual plaintiff is Dr. Ward Carpenter, co-director of Health Services at LA LGBT Center.

The Ropes & Gray team includes litigation & enforcement partners Douglas Hallward-Driemeier and Anne Johnson-Palmer and litigation & enforcement associates Ethan Weinberg, Thanithia Billings, and Nathalia Sosa.