Coke Halts Diversity Policy After Plan's Author Resigns (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
By Eric Mack | Tuesday, 04 May 2021 08:15 PM
Coca-Cola has halted its controversial diversity policy where it required outside law firms it works with to maintain a certain percentage of Black attorneys.
The temporary pause comes after the general counsel Bradley Gayton, the architect of the diversity policy, abruptly resigned to a lesser advisory role in April. Incoming general counsel Monica Howard Douglas will review the controversial policy.
"When there is a leadership change, it takes time for the new leader to review the current status of the team, organization, and initiatives," Coke spokesman Scott Leith told the Washington Examiner. "Monica is fully committed to the notions of equity and diversity in the legal profession, and we fully expect she will take the time necessary to thoughtfully review any plans going forward."
The Gayton plan required outside law firms to have at least 30% of their bill time come from "diverse attorneys," half of whom had to be Black, according to the Examiner.
"The hard truth is that our profession is not treating the issue of diversity and inclusion as a business imperative," Gayton had said, the Examiner reported. "We have a crisis on our hands, and we need to commit ourselves to specific actions that will accelerate the diversity of the legal profession."
Critics questioned whether the policy violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Coke had come under scrutiny in February when their company diversity training urged employees to be "less white."
"In the U.S. and other Western nations, white people are socialized to feel that they are inherently superior because they are white," a training slide reportedly read, while another urged employees to "try to be less white" and "be less oppressive," "listen," "believe," and "break with white solidarity."
Also, CEO James Quincey raised eyebrows when he adopted Democrat political talking points in rejecting Georgia's duly passed election law reforms.
"Let me be crystal clear and unequivocal — this legislation is unacceptable, it is a step backward, and it does not promote principles that we have stood for here in Georgia, around broad access to voting, around voter convenience, about ensuring election integrity, and this is frankly just a step backwards," Quincey said, the Examiner reported.
Coke was then forced to soften its apparent political stance, amid a potential backlash among conservative customers, vendors, and clients.
"We believe the best way to make progress now is for everyone to come together to listen, respectfully share concerns and collaborate on a path forward," a spokesperson told the Examiner. "We remain open to productive conversations with advocacy groups and lawmakers who may have differing views.
"It's time to find common ground. In the end, we all want the same thing — free and fair elections, the cornerstone of our democracy."