Paramount Exec Is Latest to Be Fired for Racist Remarks

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek July 20, 2018
Paramount Exec Is Latest to Be Fired for Racist Remarks

Amy Powell, head of Viacom's Paramount Television unit, was fired Thursday for allegedly making racist remarks. Powell has denied she made any such remarks and said she would be vindicated.

Hers is the latest corporate-level termination associated with insensitive racial remarks. John Schnatter, chairman of Papa John's pizza, resigned July 11 at his board's request over a report that he made a racial slur and used graphic descriptions of violence against minorities. He has since said that he regrets stepping down, accusing the board of not "doing any investigation" and claiming his removal was based on rumors.

And Jonathan Friedland, Netflix communications officer, was fired in June over two incidents in which he used a racial slur.

It's not just executives who have been ousted over racial comments. A UPS HR supervisor was fired in June for allegedly posting a racist comment on the Facebook page of a Georgia TV station.

SHRM Online has collected the following articles from its archives and other respected news sources reporting on racism in the workplace and how to creative an inclusive environment.  

Paramount Fires President of TV Unit 

Powell's firing followed an investigation by Paramount's human resources and legal team this week after complaints were made about her conduct.

"It is imperative that we uphold our values and ensure that all employees feel safe and included in the workplace," Paramount Pictures Chairman and Chief Executive Jim Gianopulo said in a memo. He characterized her so-called remarks as "inconsistent with our company's values." 

While the memo doesn't disclose what Powell said, a person familiar with the matter said the remarks in question were "racial in nature." Specifically, she made remarks on a conference call about black women being angry and about black children being raised by a single parent. 
(The Wall Street Journal

How Do You Combat Racism at Work? Experts Offer Suggestions 

Starbucks closed the doors of its 8,000 stores May 29 to conduct staff training that addresses "implicit bias, promotes conscious inclusion and prevents discrimination." Other companies may be asking themselves, too, how their workplaces can be more welcoming to people of color, whether job applicants, employees, customers or vendors. 
(SHRM Online)  

'Papa John' Schnatter's Ouster Shows Zero Tolerance for Racism Means Zero Tolerance
Once, executives might have thought their status earned them the benefit of the doubt or placed them above the scrutiny given rank-and-file employees. No longer. In this new era, everyone is on notice. 

[SHRM members-only policy: Diversity Policy]  

What Is Racial Harassment? 

Under federal law it is illegal to harass a person in any aspect of employment because of that person's race or color. Harassment can include racial slurs, offensive or derogatory remarks about a person's race or color, or the display of racially-offensive symbols. Racial harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim of the harassment being fired or demoted). 
(Workplace Fairness)  

Tips to Address and Handle Racism in the Workplace 

As a human resources employee, you hold the responsibility to address racism immediately, implement prevention policies and deliver necessary discipline. Use these tips to address and handle racism properly in your workplace. 
(Thomas-Fenner-Woods Agency Inc.)  

Experts Weigh In on Starbucks' Racial-Bias Training 

Starbucks said it has begun reviewing its training and practices to address implicit bias, promote conscious inclusion and prevent discrimination. But training by itself won't put a stop to the problem of implicit bias, said Howard Ross, founder of the Cook Ross business management consulting firm in Silver Spring, Md. It will rarely have any long-term impact unless the organization's culture has changed and employees are called on to behave differently, he noted. 
(SHRM Online)



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