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OPM Issues Guidance Revoking Diversity Training Ban

The action formally rescinds a directive barring agencies and contractors from conducting certain types of training.

The Office of Personnel Management on Monday issued guidance formally implementing one of the first actions President Biden’s took after he entered the Oval Office: reinstating diversity and inclusion training at federal agencies and contractors.

Last fall, the Trump administration controversially banned what administration officials called “divisive” diversity and inclusion training at federal agencies and by federal contractors if it involved critical race theory, “race and sex scapegoating” or unconscious bias, and threatened discipline for federal employees and contractors who engaged in it.

OPM then issued a memo putting a pause on all diversity training until it could review material from agencies to ensure the training complied with the new rules. Although most experts said the directive was based on an apparent misconception of what workplace diversity training actually entails, they criticized the decision in part because they believed it would have a chilling effect on efforts to make federal workplaces more inclusive of all federal workers and contractors.

On Biden’s first day in office, he signed an executive order instructing agencies to “root out” systemic racism from its programs and institutions and rescinded the controversial order. On Monday, Acting OPM Director Kathleen McGettigan implemented new guidance rescinding the agency’s previous instructions on the issue.

In a memo to agency heads, McGettigan encouraged agencies to resume activities related to diversity and inclusion.

“Agencies are, therefore, no longer required to submit training material to OPM for approval and may also resume using training materials previously deemed ‘non-compliant’ by OPM under [Trump’s executive order],” she wrote. “[Moving] forward, OPM will play a critical leadership role in the administration’s governmentwide efforts to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility and we encourage all agencies to continue DEIA activities which include training and educating your workforce.”

A recent survey conducted by Government Executive Media Group’s Government Business Council found that federal employees largely supported efforts to make their workplaces more diverse and inclusive, while 58% of federal workers felt the Trump administration’s efforts to crack down on “divisive” training was “counterproductive.”

According to the survey, which was conducted in January, 72% of respondents felt that it was important or extremely important for agencies to be diverse and inclusive, while 69% said training on the topic was “vital” to an organization’s success, both in the public and private sectors.

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