Democratic AGs blast Republicans trying to ‘intimidate’ corporations on diversity efforts

Democratic attorneys general from 20 states and the District of Columbia in a Wednesday letter to major corporations lined up behind hiring efforts that take diversity into consideration, contradicting a separate letter from their Republican counterparts last week.

"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 told the CEOs of Fortune 100 companies, referring to the GOP letter.

"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."

The competing messages come in the wake of last month’s Supreme Court decision gutting affirmative action in college admissions, which does not directly apply to businesses but opened the door to potential challenges from opponents of corporate diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

“We are now witnessing the next set of attacks on our efforts to improve diversity in society as a whole. While it's not surprising, it’s shameful,” New York Attorney General Tish James said of the Republican letter, on a video call for the Democrats’ announcement Wednesday.

The previous letter, sent by more than a dozen Republican attorneys general, said businesses could face “serious legal consequences” for discriminating against different groups “even for benign purposes.”

It specifically opposed quotas, pointing to the Supreme Court decision on college admissions.

The Democrats' letter said that while they agree companies should face legal consequences for "unlawful" discrimination, the Republicans were making a "baseless assertion that any attempts to address racial disparity are by their very nature unlawful."

Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings called it "a flagrant double standard. They’re all for free markets when it comes to wages, poverty, worker safety, health care, the environment — and the list goes on."

Even before the Supreme Court's decision, Republicans frequently took issue with diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in education and the workplace. Labor attorneys have previously said the decision could put pressure on employers seeking to build more diverse workplaces.