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Sunday, October 2, 2022

Coca-Cola suspends aggressive diversity plan after the chief lawyer resigns

By UME

“Woke Coke” fell on the nose.

Coca-Cola has suspended its controversial diversity plan – which provided penalties for outside law firms if they did not meet the racial diversity quotas – after violent backlash.

Bradley Gayton

The hiring came after the plan’s initiator, former Coca-Cola Justiciar Bradley Gayton, abruptly resigned after less than a year in office last month and criticism of quotas increased.

The relevant question was whether Gayton’s guidelines violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states that employers must not treat people differently on the basis of their race.

A Coca-Cola spokesman said Gayton’s successor, Monica Howard Douglas, was reviewing the plan.

“When there is a change in leadership, the new leader needs time to review the current state of the team, organization and initiatives,” he said. “Monica is a full advocate for equality and diversity in the legal profession, and we expect her to take the time to carefully consider any future plans.”

In January, Gayton hit the headlines when it unveiled plans to punish outside law firms that fail to meet the new diversity quotas by cutting their fees or severing relationships with them altogether.

Under this plan, every law firm that wanted to do business with the company had to commit itself that at least 30 percent of the billed time would be done by “various lawyers” and at least half of that time by black lawyers.

“The hard truth is, our profession is not treating diversity and inclusion as a business imperative,” wrote Gayton in January when he unveiled the plan. “We are dealing with a crisis and we must commit to concrete measures that will promote the diversity of the legal profession.”

But Gayton’s sudden resignation last month cast doubt on the plan. Outsiders criticized the plan and asked Coca-Cola to suspend it.

The legal aid foundation Project on Fair Representation released an open letter to Coca-Cola last week warning that Coca-Cola’s “race quotas” were “illegal” for its outside advisors.

In a meeting with Coca-Cola’s global legal team, Monica Douglas, the company’s new general counsel , said Coca-Cola would be “on hiatus for now,” but would likely stick with parts of the diversity plan, Law.com reported.

Coca-Cola hired Gayton in September 2020 after serving almost 30 years as a senior lawyer at Ford. Although he has now left Coca-Cola as General Counsel, he still has a relationship with the company.

He has signed a new contract as a consultant to Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey. In that position, he will earn $ 12 million next year. This amount includes an upfront payment of $ 4 million and a monthly advisory fee of $ 666,666, according to a securities filing dated April 21. It is unclear how Gayton, in his new role, will affect the company’s diversity plan for outside law firms.

However, this is nowhere near the first wake-up call for Coke.

In February, as part of the company’s diversity training, employees were asked to be “less white”. The Confronting Racism course in question was offered by LinkedIn Education and was reportedly used by the soft drink giant.

Coca-Cola has come under fire for diversity training courses that encourage employees to be “less white”:

“In the US and other Western countries, white people have been socialized in such a way that they think they are naturally superior because they are white,” reads one of the slides allegedly by an “internal whistleblower” of the YouTube commentator Karlyn Borysenko was leaked.

Another slide suggests “trying to be less white” with advice such as “be less oppressive”, “listen”, “believe” and “break with white solidarity”. The tweet sharing pictures of the course went viral.

Recently, Republican lawmakers have criticized Coca-Cola for adhering too closely to democratic positions. The Atlanta-based corporation hit the headlines in April for speaking out against a Georgia state law that critics say would prevent blacks and other colored people from voting.

Source: New York Post / Fdesouche

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