Tennessee AG Challenges Federal DEI Apprenticeship Rule

Tennessee's AG leads 24 states in opposing a federal DEI rule in apprenticeships.

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti spearheaded a collective effort with 24 other states on Monday to confront the Department of Labor (DOL) over its proposed rule aimed at integrating diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) principles into the National Apprenticeship System. The group asserts that this initiative not only overshoots the authority granted by Congress but also illegally fosters racial discrimination and contradicts the principle of equality that underpins American society.

The controversy centers around a proposed DOL rule that mandates DEI-focused changes to the apprenticeship system, a move that, according to Skrmetti and the coalition, deviates from the core objective of providing equal opportunity without regard to race. “The proposed DOL apprenticeship rule is a step back from the progress made towards ensuring people are not differentiated based on skin color,” Skrmetti remarked, emphasizing the importance of maintaining an unbiased approach in such programs.

The contentious DEI plan would require entities involved in the apprenticeship program, including sponsors, State Apprenticeship Agencies (SAA), and employers, to adopt race-based strategies for the recruitment, training, and retention of individuals. This, the attorneys general argue, amounts to government-endorsed racial discrimination, violating both the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and Title VII of the civil-rights laws.

The public comment letter submitted by the states to the DOL outlines four primary legal objections to the proposed rule, including the overreach of the DOL’s authority, the unconstitutional nature of race-based program requirements, and the indirect imposition of racially discriminatory practices forbidden by law.

The proposed DEI rule, according to the coalition, diverges from the intended purpose of the National Apprenticeship System, which is to safeguard the welfare of apprentices, by instead enforcing a system that categorizes participants based on race.

Joining Tennessee in this opposition are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia, all of which co-signed the public comment letter to express their shared concerns over the DOL’s proposed adjustments to the apprenticeship framework.

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