Utah House OKs bill prohibiting employers from imposing racial beliefs on workers

Feb 2, 2024, 4:21 PM | Updated: 4:23 pm

FILE - The Utah Capitol is shown on March 3, 2023. Utah lawmakers have just five days left to pass ...

FILE - The Utah Capitol is shown on March 3, 2023. Utah lawmakers have just five days left to pass hundreds of bills before time runs out for the legislative session on midnight on March 1. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — A measure that would prohibit employers from requiring employees to ascribe to certain beliefs related to race, color, sex or national origin has passed the Utah House.

HB111 comes as conservatives across the country, including Utah, lash out at diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at public universities. The measure contains language paralleling wording in HB261, the controversial bill signed into law by Gov. Spencer Cox on Tuesday that revamps diversity, equity and inclusion programming — traditionally meant to help minority students navigate a college setting — at Utah’s universities.

It’s one thing for an employer to require workers to behave a certain way while on the job, Rep. Tim Jimenez, the bill’s sponsor, said from the House floor Thursday, but they shouldn’t be required to personally accept a belief system as their own, the sort of thing HB111 would prohibit, specifically with regard to race matters. The bill passed the House in a 54-20 vote, with 14 Democrats and six Republicans dissenting. Now, it goes to the Senate for consideration.

Jimenez, R-Tooele, cited instances in law enforcement when workers, apparently corrections officers, “were compelled to profess a belief that certain minorities are inherently oppressed … or oppressive in both cases. We can teach that, obviously, and we can make someone come to the table and hear those discussions. However, we as employers cross the line when we state that in order to work at this particular correctional facility, or within corrections, you must actually believe this as well.”

That was the only specific example of the sort of thing he’s aiming to stop that Jimenez cited. He didn’t provide other examples, citing, in part, concerns of those who have reached out to him that they could lose their jobs if it were discovered they spoke out.

“At this point, all I have is a lot of employees who have thanked me for this bill. Obviously, I haven’t gone as far as most of them wanted to,” Jimenez said.

Rep. Mark Wheatley, D-Murray, expressed opposition, saying the measure represented “government overreach.” “We’re telling businesses how to operate in the context of what the sponsor wants,” Wheatley said.

Rep. Matt MacPherson, R-West Valley City, countered, noting other labor and employment regulations related to race matters. “I don’t see this as an overreach because we’re already in this space when it comes to the state and federal government,” he said.

Among other specific “concepts” employers can’t oblige employees to believe, per HB111, is the notion that someone “should be subject to discrimination or adverse treatment because of actions that other members of the same race, color, sex or national origin committed in the past.” That seems to stem from debate in some circles about lingering responsibility white people have, or should have, stemming from the racism minorities in the United States have historically faced and echoes language in HB261.

HB261 prohibits universities from creating policies that posit that an individual “bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other individuals with the same personal identity characteristics.”

Likewise, HB111 delves into the question of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives — the key focus of HB261. HB111 states that it is illegal to oblige an employee to believe that people, “by virtue of the individual’s race, color, sex or national origin, should be subject to discrimination or adverse treatment to achieve diversity, equity or inclusion.”

HB261 proponents tout that measure as a means of expanding diversity, equity and inclusion programming at universities to all students in need, including white students, not just the minority and other traditionally marginalized students such initiatives are designed to assist.

KSL 5 TV Live

Utah Legislature

Utah legislators, supporters of the new law, and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson at a press conference to...

Daniel Woodruff

New Utah school safety law earns praise from victims’ families, but cost concerns persist

Family members who lost children in the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history came to Utah to celebrate a new law aimed at making schools safer.

2 days ago

Lehi homes...

Daniel Woodruff

Governor highlights bills to help Utah homebuyers, but will they make a difference?

Gov. Spencer Cox on Thursday highlighted several new bills he just signed into law that are aimed at getting more buyers into the market.

15 days ago

A new law is changing the amount of hunter orange that an individual is required to wear during spe...

Mark Jones

Several wildlife-related bills passed into law during 2024 legislative session

A number of wildlife management-related bills have been signed into law by Gov. Spencer Cox, following the completion of the 2024 Utah Legislature.

16 days ago

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sam Gill...

Daniel Woodruff

Salt Lake Co. DA reacts after governor signs controversial bill targeting his office  

Salt Lake County’s top prosecutor is reacting after the governor signed a controversial bill imposing new rules on his office.

21 days ago

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signing bills and vetoing seven while in his office....

Bridger Beal-Cvetko, KSL.com

Gov. Spencer Cox vetoes 7 bills he thinks are unnecessary from recent legislative session

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox has vetoed several bills passed by lawmakers, after encouraging lawmakers to pass fewer bills in the future legislative sessions.

22 days ago

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during a press conference on the last day of the 2024 legislative sess...

Bridger Beal-Cvetko, KSL.com

‘Could have been a phone call’: Spencer Cox thinks Utah lawmakers are passing too many bills

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said Thursday that lawmakers have passed too many bills this year. He has signed 503 of the 591 bills passed by the Legislature this year, and has through today to sign or veto any legislation.

22 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Utah House OKs bill prohibiting employers from imposing racial beliefs on workers