Utah wants the public to report violations of new anti-DEI law

The hotline is part of the state’s anti-diversity measure signed into law earlier this year. It will be overseen by Utah State Auditor John Dougall, whose previous efforts to launch a hotline for transgender bathroom complaints drew thousands of hoax submissions.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) State Auditor John Dougall speaks in this photo from Saturday, April 9, 2022. Dougall released an online form on Monday, June 10, 2024, for the public to submit alleged violations by government agencies regarding Utah's anti-DEI law.

There is now a hotline for reporting alleged violations of Utah’s anti-DEI law happening in government offices — including when a department name includes the now-banned words “diversity, equity and inclusion.”

The state-run hotline was announced Monday and is currently online at the Utah auditor’s website, where there is a form for the public to report complaints. But it won’t actually start accepting submissions until July 1, when the law limiting diversity efforts takes effect.

Offices have the next three weeks to make the changes required under HB261, which came out of the most recent legislative session and was signed into law by Gov. Spencer Cox. The provisions include banning offices from asking job applicants to submit a statement on their diversity beliefs, prohibiting certain training on DEI and eliminating the specified terms from program names.

The law applies to state government agencies, as well as all public higher education and K-12 schools. But the new hotline is only for violations within the government.

Concerns about compliance at colleges and universities will go to the Utah Board of Higher Education. And those for K-12 schools will be directed to the Utah State Board of Education.

State Auditor John Dougall released the URL — hotlineform.utah.gov/equal_opportunity — along with a statement in support of reigning in DEI initiatives. He said he believes those efforts, “whatever their good intentions,” tend to “stifle diversity while promoting discrimination” instead. Requiring diversity statements as part of a job application, he said, is particularly troubling.

“DEI statements can essentially become ideological litmus tests … ,” Dougall wrote in his statement. “They can discourage certain applicants from considering possible employment and could impose excessive and improper speech control.”

He said DEI initiatives, overall, “become tools of virtue signaling.”

The online form prompts the individual submitting a complaint to first select which state or local government office they are alleging violated the law. The dropdown menu includes hundreds of options, including from city governments, water districts, county commissions and housing authorities. Every state office is also listed, such as the Utah attorney general’s office and the Utah Department of Commerce.

The lengthy form then asks five questions about the details of the allegation, prompting the complainant to note where it occurred and who was involved. It also asks for them to provide any relevant evidence.

Individuals have to check a box at the end saying the information is accurate to the best of their knowledge; falsely submitting the form could be a class B misdemeanor, according to the disclosure.

Dougall is required to set up the hotline under the new law, which charges him with investigating alleged DEI violations. He said he released the form early to welcome feedback, which can be submitted via email to stateauditor@utah.gov.

The auditor took a different tone with his role in reviewing complaints submitted about Utah’s bathroom bill, HB257, which also came out of the recent legislative session and was signed into law. That measure has already taken effect and restricts which bathrooms and locker rooms transgender individuals can use in government-owned buildings.

The rollout for that hotline was a mess. The online form was bombarded by more than 12,000 hoax complaints by individuals mocking the law, submitting song lyrics and jokes.

And Dougall has been outspoken against the process for passing the measure, saying lawmakers were “invasive and overly aggressive” and didn’t consult him before making him “bathroom monitor.”

He ended up reviewing five complaints out of all those submitted that he said “attempt to make plausible allegations,” and four of them he found unsubstantiated. The final one is still under review.

Dougall is not running for reelection as auditor; instead, he has joined the race to become a U.S. representative for Utah’s 3rd Congressional District.

He added Monday on the anti-DEI law that anyone “concerned with the statute’s substance” should reach out to the Legislature.