NASHVILLE – On Monday, Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti led 24 states in warning the Department of Labor (DOL) that its proposed rule to embed diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into the National Apprenticeship System exceeds congressional authority, illegally promotes racial-discrimination, and is antithetical to the American ideal of equality.

“Americans fought for generations to ensure that people would not be treated differently because of the color of their skin, and the proposed DOL apprenticeship rule flies in the face of those hard-earned laws,” General Skrmetti said. “We should not let race-obsessed ideology interfere with an important and successful apprenticeship program. No American should be deprived of an opportunity because of their race.”

In a public comment letter submitted to DOL, the Attorneys General note that the National Apprenticeship System is authorized to provide taxpayer money to state sponsors, employers, and other entities so that hundreds of thousands of Americans can take advantage of apprenticeship opportunities around the country. According to Congress, the DOL is authorized to “formulate and promote the furtherance of labor standards necessary to safeguard the welfare of apprentices.”

That money is not to be used for racial discrimination. And yet, the proposed DEI plan would effectively require program sponsors, State Apprenticeship Agencies (SAA), and participating employers to treat people differently based on the color of their skin. It would also require such entities to develop a strategy to “recruit, train and retain” individuals with certain racial demographics in order to qualify for taxpayer money.

The proposed rule would also impose new race-based oversight and data collection requirements on these entities in order to prove compliance with de facto government-mandated racial discrimination.

More specifically, it would violate the law in four ways:

  1. DOL’s imposition of new oversight and data collection requirements on SAAs exceeds the scope of the agency’s Spending-Clause authority.
  2. DOL’s proposed race-based requirements for apprenticeship program design and administration violate the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.
  3. The race-based employment decision-making all but required by the proposed rule violates Title VII and related civil-rights laws.
  4. And as the U.S. Supreme Court has previously ruled, “what cannot be done directly” under governing law “cannot be done indirectly” by federal agencies.


DOL’s proposed DEI rule does nothing to safeguard the welfare of apprentices. It instead entrenches an apprenticeship regime dedicated to picking winners and losers based on the color of apprentices’ skin. The following states joined Tennessee in submitting this public comment letter: 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.