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Diversity Management: Tyler Clementi Case Sentencing Offers Lesson in Preventing Bias Tragedies

Dharun Ravi Sentenced to 30 Days in JailDiversity management is vital to preventing more tragedies like the suicide of Tyler Clementi. Today’s sentencing of Dharun Ravi—30 days of jail time, three years of probation, a $10,000 fine plus extensive counseling—is the final chapter in a very tragic story. 

As Judge Glenn Berman said, there will be no closure for the Clementi family, whose son killed himself after cyber-bullying by his roommate, Ravi, who publicly exposed Clementi’s sexual relationship with another man. Read the real-time notes from the hearing or view pictures from the trial

Before the Ravi verdict, LGBT leaders were split on the need for its severity. Many leaders argued—and we would agree—that sending Ravi to prison for a significant time was more about making an example than what’s really needed: emphasizing the societal and organizational issues that allow bias and bullying to exist. Former NJ Gov. James McGreevey wrote an op-ed voicing this sentiment. 

The focus—and the emphasis on diversity management’s role—should be on education in cultural competence and holding people accountable for adhering to organizational values. Holding people accountable primarily means not allowing it to continue to remain as part of the institution. So a person, for example, who exhibits racist or homophobic views should be asked to leave the company. If laws are broken, as some were in this case, then punishments should be left to law enforcement. 

Read Our Analysis of the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index and What Clinton’s Global LGBT-Rights Speech Means for Your Company for more on LGBT issues. 

Diversity-Management Actions for Holding People Accountable 

The best way to prevent bias in the workplace—against any group—is to clearly state your values and uphold them, holding people directly accountable for the repercussions of negative actions. 

Here are some guidelines from diversity-management best practices you should follow: 

 

  • Understand the laws and make sure your managers do as well. The laws on discriminatory actions and words are very clear. Compliance training is different from diversity training (which emphasizes cultural competence), but make sure that EVERYONE gets what’s legal and what’s not. Read these articles on legal issues to learn how to avoid discrimination lawsuits. 
  • When a problem occurs, address it swiftly and decisively, adhering to your values. As many case studies prove, ignoring discrimination or trivializing it never works. Biased actions can occur in any institution, as Rutgers University found out in this tragic case. Even with all the preventive actions described above, chances are something will happen that will require action as well as clear internal and external communications. Be very clear and very true to your moral statements. And be very clear about the ramifications. See also: Ask the White Guy: Decision Making, Clarity of Values & What to Do When It Goes Horribly Wrong.

 

–Barbara Frankel

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