So You Hired A Racist. Now What?

The values they harbor have no place in society, let alone our payroll.
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Neo-Nazis and white supremacists marching in Charlottesville.
Neo-Nazis and white supremacists marching in Charlottesville.

There’s no doubt the election of Donald Trump by the electoral college emboldened white supremacists and provided them bigger platforms upon which to spread their anti-diversity messages. Racists no longer feel confined to trolling people on Twitter and are suddenly removing their white hoods and boldly showing their faces at KKK rallies.

This puts businesses in a precarious situation: if you discover, online or otherwise, that one of your employees is racist — and actively engaged in promoting white supremacy — what should you do?

Google recently fired James Damore shortly after he spent his working hours producing a 10 page anti-diversity manifesto in which he speculated that his women colleagues were biologically inferior to men. After the manifesto went viral, Google’s head of diversity Danielle Brown issued a statement acknowledging the manifesto, disputing its accuracy, and reaffirming Google’s commitment to diversity. Google CEO Sundar Pichai went out of his way to remind young girls in tech, “You belong in this industry. We need you.” And lastly, Damore was the unfortunate recipient of the dreaded pink slip, namely for violating Google’s code of conduct.

Google did the right thing by sending a powerful message about their unwavering commitment to diversity and rejecting harmful gender stereotypes. Research shows time and time again that diversity isn’t just a nice-to-have, but a strategic imperative. Research by McKinsey tells us that 35 percent of ethnically diverse companies outperform their competitors, and diversity in the boardroom generates better and more profitable ideas. Still, there might be some white supremacists among our workplaces.

If you’ve hired a racist, what should you do?

  1. Acknowledge that you’ve hired a racist. It can be very powerful to email your workforce acknowledging that, somewhere in the hiring process, you miscalculated a person’s cultural fit for your business. If one of your employees marched alongside the KKK in Charlottesville, let your workforce know. They probably already know, and your silence would simply ring volumes. In fact, Twitter user @YesYoureRacist identified several of the speakers and protestors at Charlotteville’s white nationalist rally.

  2. Revisit your code of conduct and ensure you’ve inserted strong pro-diversity language. Beyond being a moral imperative, diversity in our workplaces is a competitive advantage. Any employee caught to have violated your code of conduct has proven themselves unfit and unwilling to live up to the values upon which you want your business to be run.

  3. Resource your employee resource groups. ERGs are a great way for women, minorities, and allies to build community and proactively respond to current events. Put your money where your mouth is: Fund these ERGs to the best of your ability and empower them to make big impacts in your workplace.

  4. Assess job candidates for their “cultural fit.” Consider asking job candidates “What have you done to promote diversity and inclusion in your previous workplace?” This is a great way to weed out KKK recruits and to ensure you’re hiring folks who, like you, value D&I.

  5. Fire any employee who acts on their racial animus. If your employee marched with the KKK in Charlottesville, that could warrant their immediate dismissal from your workplace. Check with an employment attorney to see if you have grounds for firing, especially if they’ve violated your code of conduct or contributed to fostering a hostile work environment.

Social media is a powerful community-building tool, but it also can be useful in exposing people. Sometimes, those people just so happen to be our students or employees who espouse Nazism. The values they harbor have no place in society, let alone our payroll.

Cristina Lara managed diversity and inclusion at Hillary for America. She has previously worked in diversity & inclusion at Cisco and Amazon. Of course, her opinions are her own. Follow Cristina on Twitter.

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