Diversity Training: More Proof It Is a Waste

Earlier, I wrote about how diversity training backfires: It harms employers and employees alike, triggers lawsuits by both white and minority employees, causes racial and gender conflict in the workplace, enriches racist scam artists, and undermines civil rights and civil liberties.

Sunday’s Washington Post has a story in which even people enraptured with race and gender “diversity,” such as diversity consultants, admit that most diversity training is worthless or even counterproductive.

The story is interesting reading, and it contains much useful information. But it is inaccurate in one respect: It claims that the Supreme Court has ruled that “diversity training” can help an employer defeat a discrimination lawsuit.

That misses the mark. The Supreme Court has suggested that sexual harassment prevention training can be one component of an anti-discrimination policy that helps an employer defeat punitive damages (in its Kolstad decision) or liability for supervisory harassment (the Ellerth and Faragher decisions).

But it has never suggested that diversity training in general is useful for anything, and diversity training has been derided by court rulings, such as the federal appeals court decision in Fitzgerald v. Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Co. (1995), which suggested it is a “tyranny of virtue.”

No law requires affirmative action or “diversity” in the private workplace. As a federal appeals court observed in Coalition for Economic Equity v. Wilson, (1997), affirmative action may be permitted under federal law (in limited circumstances), but it is not required.

There is simply no legal mandate for “diversity,” much less “diversity training,” and an employer’s workforce does not need to “look like America” demographically. As the Supreme Court observed in Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co. (1989), it is a “completely unrealistic assumption” that women and minorities should be represented in each institution “in lockstep proportion to their representation in the local population” or the country as a whole.