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

Diversity management is vital to preventing more tragedies like the suicide of Tyler Clementi. Today’s sentencing of Dharun Ravi30 days of jail time, three years of probation, a $10,000 fine plus extensive counselingis 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 arguedand we would agreethat 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. JamesMcGreevey wrote an op-ed voicing this sentiment.

The focusand the emphasis on diversity management’s roleshould 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 workplaceagainst any groupis 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:

  • Be clear in all communicationsfrom the top on downthat there is a no-tolerance policy for discrimination, harassment or any behaviors that are not inclusive of everything. This message must resonate from the top. At DiversityInc Top 50 companies, 94 percent of the CEOs have a personal message emphasizing diversity and inclusion on the corporate website, and 94 percent make sure diversity and inclusion is part of the official mission statement.

  • 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.
  • Use resource groups for education and to ferret out areas of discrimination. Your resource groups are your best eyes and ears on the ground to both formally and informally lead people to better comprehension of others’ differencesand to tell you when there are potentially serious issues going on that will lead to problems. Read Safe LGBT Spaces: What Schools Can Learn From Resource Groups and watch our Diversity Web Seminar on Resource Groups for more.
  • 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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