Dem AGs Urge Companies To Ignore Republican Attempts To ‘Intimidate’ Following Affirmative Action Ruling

New York Attorney General Letitia James (Photo by Yuki IWAMURA / AFP) (Photo by YUKI IWAMURA/AFP via Getty Images)
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Democratic attorneys general from 20 states and the District of Columbia sent a letter to the biggest corporations in the U.S. on Wednesday, reassuring them that corporate diversity programs and hiring efforts that take diversity into consideration are still legal. The letter, addressed to Fortune 100 CEOs, came as a response to a separate letter a group of Republican attorneys general sent last week to the same group of corporations warning them to refrain from using racial preferences in hiring and promotion decisions, suggesting the Supreme Court decision gutting the use of affirmative action in college admissions extended to the companies.

“The letter you received from the 13 state attorneys general is intended to intimidate you into rolling back the progress many of you have made,” the Democrats wrote. “We write to reassure you that corporate efforts to recruit diverse workforces and create inclusive work environments are legal and reduce corporate risk for claims of discrimination.”

Democrats’ 10-page letter also emphasized that while they agree with the GOP letter that “companies that engage in racial discrimination should and will face serious legal consequences,” the Republican attorneys general were making a “baseless assertion that any attempts to address racial disparity are by their very nature unlawful.”

“We condemn the letter’s tone of intimidation, which purposefully seeks to undermine efforts to reduce racial inequities in corporate America,” the Democrats wrote, referring to the GOP letter.

Republican Attorneys General “wasted no time in trying to misinform the public and the business community on the Supreme Court’s recent affirmative action rulings by trying to take businesses and workers hostage with overt threats,” the Democratic Attorneys General Association Co-Chairs Delaware AG Kathy Jennings and Nevada AG Aaron Ford said in a statement Wednesday. “This Republican AG letter continues with their fanatical quest to neutralize thoughts, actions, and opinions of those who do not kowtow to their backwards philosophies.”

The Supreme Court’s recent decision on affirmative action does not directly touch on private companies’ use of diversity, equity and inclusion policies. Nonetheless,  Republicans seized on it in their seven-page letter on July 13, saying companies should “refrain from discriminating on the basis of race, whether under the label of ‘diversity, equity, and inclusion’ or otherwise.” The Republicans’ letter suggested the companies could face legal consequences if they don’t slash diversity efforts. 

“The Supreme Court’s recent decision should place every employer and contractor on notice of the illegality of racial quotas and race-based preferences in employment and contracting practices,” the letter from 13 attorneys general states.

“If your company previously resorted to racial preferences or naked quotas to offset its bigotry, that discriminatory path is now definitively closed,” they wrote, referring to the Court’s decision. “Your company must overcome its underlying bias and treat all employees, all applicants, and all contractors equally, without regard for race.”

The conservative attacks on diversity and inclusion practices are certainly not new. But the attacks on practices and programs around initiatives — which picked up exponentially following the murder of George Floyd in 2020 — have been in the forefront in recent months as far-right lawmakers have made screaming about so-called “woke” and “CRT” practices their priority.

MAGA House Republicans attacked the diversity training programs in the military — alongside abortion access and funding for gender affirming surgeries and treatments for military personnel — last week, voting to include amendments ending the practice into the National Defense Authorization Act.

Read the letter from Democratic attorneys general here:

Read the letter from Republican attorneys general here:

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