Energy & Environment

EPA legal staff push back against Trump order on diversity trainings

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Lawyers at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are pushing back against an executive order from President Trump that bars diversity trainings, encouraging the agency to maintain a commitment to embracing diversity in the workplace.

Eighty employees at EPA’s Office of General Counsel signed the letter, which calls Trump’s order an “attempt to distort and suppress honest attempts to grapple with these central issues in our country.” They also called the order “corrosive and dangerous,” claiming that it “hinders necessary efforts to create healing for all.”

When he barred such trainings, Trump’s September order said that they are “rooted in the pernicious and false belief that America is an irredeemably racist and sexist country.”

Following the order, the EPA canceled a speaker series on racism, according to reporting from Politico, and another virtual event on LGBTQ pride and resilience, according to reporting from HuffPost, which first reported the Office of General Counsel letter.

The EPA employees said they find the response to the executive order concerning.

“The federal government is supposed to serve as the model workplace for this country. This executive order wipes that clean, allows racism to run rampant, it takes away people’s ability to stand up for themselves and speak up when they are discriminated against. Is this what we want the workplace in this country to look like?” said one agency employee who spoke with The Hill. 

The letter from the Office of General Counsel employees described Trump’s order as punitive and demeaning.

“These directives both perpetuate and amplify the harmful stereotyping they purport to discourage. They paint us as afraid to examine ourselves and our history. We give the people of the United States far more credit than does the Executive Order,” the letter reads.

EPA spokesman James Hewitt told The Hill that the agency “is committed to maintaining fair and equal treatment of every individual who works at the agency, and the president’s executive order is fully consistent with these principles.”

“The president’s executive order makes clear that the federal government is ‘committed to the fair and equal treatment of all individuals before the law’ and recognizes that the fundamental tenet of our nation is ‘that all individuals are created equal and should be allowed an equal opportunity under the law to pursue happiness and prosper based on individual merit,’ ” he said.

Tags Diversity Donald Trump Environmental Protection Agency EPA

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