Coca-Cola pauses diversity plan after chief lawyer resigns

Woke Coke has gone flat.

Coca-Cola has paused its controversial diversity plan — that included penalties on exterior legislation corporations in the event that they failed to fulfill racial diversity quotas — after intense backlash.

The pause comes after the orchestrator of the plan, Coke’s former basic counsel Bradley Gayton, abruptly resigned final month after lower than a yr on the job and as criticism of the quotas mounted.

Some questioned whether or not Gayton’s insurance policies violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which says employers can’t deal with folks in another way based mostly on their race.

Scott Leith, a spokesman for Coke, mentioned Gayton’s substitute, Monica Howard Douglas, is now reviewing the plan. 

“When there is a leadership change, it takes time for the new leader to review the current status of the team, organization and initiatives,” he mentioned. “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.”

In January, Gayton made headlines when he unveiled his plans to penalize outside law firms that failed to fulfill new diversity quotas by slashing their charges or slicing ties with them altogether.

Under the plan, any legislation agency searching for to do enterprise with the corporate was required to commit that no less than 30 % of billed time can be from “diverse attorneys,” and no less than half of that point can be from black attorneys.

James Quincey, President and CEO of Coca-Cola
James Quincey, President and CEO of Coca-Cola
Getty Images

“The hard truth is that our profession is not treating the issue of diversity and inclusion as a business imperative,” Gayton wrote in January, unveiling the plan. “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.”

But Gayton’s sudden resignation final month has thrown the plan into doubt, with outsiders criticizing the plan and urging Coca-Cola to stroll it again.

Legal protection basis Project on Fair Representation published an open letter to Coca-Cola final week warning that Coke’s exterior counsel “racial quota requirements” are “unlawful.” 

In a gathering with Coke’s world authorized crew, Douglas, the corporate’s new basic counsel, mentioned that Coca-Cola was “taking a pause for now” however would doubtless salvage some components of the diversity plan, Law.com reported

Coca-Cola employed Gayton in September 2020 after spending almost 30 years as the highest lawyer at Ford. Despite his departure from Coke as basic counsel, he nonetheless has a relationship with the corporate.

He signed a brand new contract to function a marketing consultant to Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey. In that place, he’ll be making a hefty $12 million over the following yr. That included a $4 million sign-on payment and a month-to-month consulting payment of $666,666, in response to an April 21 securities submitting. It’s unclear how Gayton will be capable to influence the corporate’s exterior legislation agency diversity plan in his new place.

It’s hardly Coke’s first stab at being woke.

In February, workers have been urged to be “less white” as part of the company’s alleged diversity training. The “Confronting Racism” course in query was provided by LinkedIn Education and allegedly utilized by the soft-drink titan.

“In the U.S. and other Western nations, white people are socialized to feel that they are inherently superior because they are white,” reads one of many slides, allegedly despatched from an “internal whistleblower” and posted on Twitter by YouTube commentator Karlyn Borysenko.

Another slide suggests “try to be less white” with ideas together with “be less oppressive,” “listen,” “believe” and “break with white solidarity.” The tweet that shared pictures of the course went viral.

More just lately, Republican lawmakers have criticized Coke for embracing Democratic-party positions. The Atlanta-based outfit made headlines in April for denouncing a Georgia state legislation that critics mentioned blocked black folks and different folks of colour from voting.

GOP lawmakers in flip blasted the corporate and others that issued statements on the legislation, telling the companies to remain out of politics and accusing them of hypocrisy.

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