close and back to page

Latest News

Latest News

Can You Prevent a 'Todd Akin' Moment at Your Organization?

You have the right to your opinion but not to destroy other people's productivity or conflict with the values of your employer.

We can't control the people who work for us, as Republican leaders learned this week after Rep. Todd Akin's now-infamous inaccurate remark that it's extremely rare for rape victims to get pregnant.

Despite entreaties from GOP leaders, including presumptive vice-presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan, Akin is continuing his run for the Missouri Senate seat. And all this focus on what he said, his alleged sources of information and the backfighting in the party are proving a negative distraction for the Republican national convention in Tampa next week.

The greater organizational issues one can take away from this are both of a preventative and a reactive nature. From a preventative perspective, how can an organization create a culture of inclusion and respect so people do not feel they can make blatant—and erroneous—statements that are harmful to others? And once a statement is made or action taken, what are the legal and ethical ways to respond? How do you prevent negative stereotypes from seriously impacting productivity?

Without proactive efforts to create an inclusive culture, organizations run the risk of permitting inaccurate stereotypes to flourish, which hampers engagement and productivity. Dr. Claude Steele spoke about this to a DiversityInc audience, highlighting stereotype threat and how it impedes talent development for people from underrepresented groups. [Scroll down to watch the video.]

What's Legal?

DiversityInc legal columnist Bob Gregg, who specializes in discrimination law, says our laws encourage the ability to have different viewpoints. "We recognize that if we have people from so many races and religions, all these differences create frictions. We address our differences with laws as opposed to guns and bullets … Our policies have to be flexible enough to allow difference but not to allow discrimination."

Many of these statements are voiced as "religious beliefs." In the private sector, the Title VII Civil Rights Act of 1964 guarantees that employees cannot be discriminated against because of religious beliefs. Employees can believe whatever they choose but cannot take actions that violate a company's policy. However, the company must be very clear in its communications on the policy.

AT&T, No. 4 in The 2012 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list, ran up against this issue in 2004. The company had adopted a diversity policy requiring its employees to "value the differences" in all employees. A Christian employee, who said he believed that being gay is a sin, requested clarification on the policy and did not receive it. He then refused to sign the policy and was fired. He sued for religious discrimination and won because, according to Gregg, "AT&T failed to accommodate his religious beliefs by failing to provide an explanation and ordering him to sign the policy."

But in another 2004 religious-discrimination lawsuit against Cox Communications, No. 25 in the DiversityInc Top 50, the outcome was quite different, says Gregg. A supervisor was fired for violating the anti-harassment policy (which had been clearly explained) when he told a lesbian employee during an evaluation that being a lesbian was a sin and that he would pray about her sexual orientation. The court found that the behavior violated a reasonable company policy, and the firing was upheld.

"Our policies should not prohibit beliefs; they should focus on behaviors. If it's not a matter of public concern, a religious belief or something protected by the whistleblower law, a company can say that if a person doesn't go along with company values, they can work elsewhere," Gregg says, adding that it also depends on the person's job. A vice president of HR, for example, would have more at stake for making a comment perceived as biased than a file clerk. It also matters whether the comment was made on company or personal time, he says.

Can You Prevent These Incidents? 

From these cases, it's obvious that an organization must communicate its values clearly—and that those values must emanate from the top.

DiversityInc Top 50 companies all have consistent diversity and inclusion policies and statements from the CEO on their websites supporting them. In almost all of these companies, the mission statement also includes a diversity component.

Organizationally, it's important to engage employees "whose thoughts around their personal values may differ from corporate values," says Dr. Walter McCollum, senior director of Organizational Development at Sodexo, No. 2 in the DiversityInc Top 50. Dr. McCollum, who will be the luncheon speaker at DiversityInc's Sept. 13 event on "Managing Relationships Between HR & Diversity Departments," says it's critical to recognize the interplay between departments, sub-units and identity groups.

"By paying attention to the impact of actions on different populations, we make sure we account for key aspects of the system, and, therefore, create comprehensive and lasting change. Attending to diversity increases the likelihood that a change process will benefit the system as a whole along with its many parts," he says.

An essential way to do that is through the use of resource groups, which are a major source of cultural education in an organization and a conduit between mid- and low-level employees and senior executives. All of the DiversityInc Top 50 companies use their resource groups for these purposes, and they make sure the groups are inclusive—so anyone can join, even if they are not of the direct "affinity" of the group. That increases the ability to reach those who have different views, as does mandatory diversity training for the workforce, which 66 percent of the DiversityInc Top 50 has.

Corporations don't have power over freedom of thought or speech. But companies with clear communications and diversity-management initiatives in place are better equipped for the legal and organizational challenges of dealing with those whose views collide with corporate values.

--Barbara Frankel

The Conversation

Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation Extends Partnership With Armed Services YMCA To Help End Childhood Hunger

$100,000 grant from the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation will support child development and food insecurity programs at two ASYMCA locations.

Originally Published by Sodexo.

Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation announced that it is extending its partnership with the Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) and providing a $100,000 grant to improve access to nutritious food to help end childhood hunger. The organizations will continue to work together to support the military community by helping to reduce food insecurity among military families. With the generosity of organizations like Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation, ASYMCA can help stop military family hunger through programs and services supporting young, low-income military families.

Read More Show Less

Sodexo Commits to Achieving Gender Parity

Sodexo Joins the Paradigm for Parity Movement to Address Gender Parity in Corporate Leadership Positions.

Originally Published by Sodexo.

Sodexo, a food services and facilities management company committed to improving Quality of Life, announced its partnership with the Paradigm for Parity® Movement to advocate for equal employment opportunities for all genders specific to leadership positions.

Read More Show Less

Sodexo Affiliate Entegra Procurement Services Announces Strategic Partnership with Dining Alliance and Affiliated Companies

Entegra Procurement Services, a division of Sodexo North America, increases purchasing power to become a market leader in foodservice GPO procurement services.

Originally Published by Sodexo.

Sodexo, a food services and facilities management company committed to improving Quality of Life today announced a partnership between its affiliate entegra Procurement Services and Dining Alliance as part of the newly launched Buyers Edge Platform. The Buyers Edge Platform reaches 45,000 operator locations and represents a dynamic and rapidly growing GPO and multi-faceted service provider for the restaurant, lodging, and casino markets with over $7 billion in potential purchase volume.

Read More Show Less

Citing Trump, Some Republican Women to Vote Democratic in Ohio Election

In interviews with a dozen women, mostly Republicans, in the Midwestern state's 12th Congressional District, several said they would buck their voting habits to support the Democratic candidate on Aug. 7.

Democratic candidate Danny O'Connor meets with campaign volunteers ahead of a special election in Ohio's 12th congressional district in Dublin, Ohio, U.S., July 15, 2018. / REUTERS

(Reuters) — Becky von Zastrow often votes Republican in her affluent central Ohio suburb — but her dissatisfaction with U.S. President Donald Trump has convinced her to back the Democrat in a special-election test for both parties next month.

Read More Show Less

Sodexo Culture of Recognition Inspires Employees to Go Above and Beyond, while Growing their Careers

"Our workforce comes from all corners of society and as such we need a workforce that embraces diversity. We are successful because of how we all work together. We are fortunate to have a partner in Sodexo that emphasizes the same type values."

Originally Published by Sodexo.

By Jeff St. Clair, President/CEO Springhill Medical Center

Sodexo is a people company. Not only do our teams work hard to improve the Quality of Life of the people we serve, but they also take the time to improve each other's lives! A perfect example of this is the Sodexo Food & Nutrition team at Springhill Medical Center in Mobile, Alabama.

Read More Show Less

Maxine Waters' Office Evacuated Due to 'Anne Thrax' Package

Amid recent death threats against the congresswoman, a package suspected to contain Anthrax wasn't taken lightly.


Someone noticed a suspicious package sent to Rep. Maxine Waters' (D-Calif.) district office in South Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon addressed to "Anne Thrax." As Waters has recently received death threats, the authorities were contacted.

Read More Show Less

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Claps Back at GOP Rep. Who Calls Her ‘Whatever She Is’ — ‘I Am a Puerto Rican Woman’

"I am a Puerto Rican woman. It's strange you don't know what that is, given that ~75,000 Puerto Ricans have relocated to Florida in the 10 mos since María," 28-year-old Ocasio-Cortez tweeted at GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis (Fla.).


Congressional hopeful Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez delivered a response to a Republican Congressman who wasn't quite sure of "whatever she is."

Read More Show Less

Young Democrats Mobilize, Rejecting Establishment’s History

"I think they're generally spineless," a young Democrat said of his party's long-standing leadership.


Young progressive Democrats are taking their party from its traditional leadership that does not look like or represent their interests. What the New York Times calls a "revolution" is actually just the Democratic voters taking action after its party's leadership largely ignored them.

Read More Show Less