Many corporations are reforming their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives to be less overt in response to recent backlash, The New York Times reported on Monday.
Hundreds of firms recently have been reassessing their DEI programs after the Supreme Court ruled against race-based college admissions in June, prominent business executive resistance and technology layoffs impacting associated employees, according to the NYT. Many businesses are updating their programs to be less aggressive in order to avoid pushback and criticism. (RELATED: Biden FAA Pushing Diversity Hiring As Air Traffic Control System Falls Into Total Disarray)
/1🚨BREAKING — we just filed complaints with the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, requesting investigations into @AmericanAir @SouthwestAir @united for illegal racial and sex discrimination.
We must #DemolishDEI
— America First Legal (@America1stLegal) January 17, 2024
For instance, some human resource workers have pushed their DEI initiatives “under the radar,” Harvard DEI expert Frank Dobbin told the NYT. Business leaders have also been talking about how to implement DEI “in a less in-your-face way” at recent conferences he has gone to.
Law firm Jenner & Block partner Ishan Bhabha and his colleagues concluded that, following the Supreme Court decision, corporations would be likely to face legal backlash, according to the NYT. Bhabha started collaborating with numerous Fortune 500 firms to examine their diversity initiatives and make sure they do not violate any laws.
“‘Look, if I was sued over this and I have to become the face of defending D.E.I. against a conservative backlash, I’d be happy to,’” some of Bhabha’s clients say, but “the vast majority of my clients [are] not in that bucket. They think, ‘We’d like to keep our heads under the parapet.’”
Certain corporations have been looking into swapping out notorious programs such as required anti-bias training for less controversial measures like diversity task forces, according to the NYT.
Conservative nonprofit American Alliance for Equal Rights (AAER) sued law firms in 2023 over their diversity fellowship initiatives, alleging they are discriminatory towards whites and Asians. Following the lawsuits, law firms broadened their fellowships to include applicants of every race and background and AAER withdrew its lawsuits, according to the NYT.
“Regardless of how illegal DEI policies are described by corporations, colleges and governments, they remain illegal and will be actionable in a court of law,” AAER founder Edward Blum told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Treating employees, clients and customers differently because of their race is widely unpopular and polarizing among most Americans. These distinctions will continue to be challenged in court regardless of how corporations try to conceal them from the public.”
Bhabha and Dobbin did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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