Pay and gender discrimination class actions like Wal-Mart v. Dukes garner front-page headlines even as historic claims of race discrimination against Texaco linger in the public memory. But businesses of all types and sizes face a steady barrage of employment lawsuits, some justified and some not. Often, the facts are so egregious that even a lesser-known company can get caught up in cases that threaten its reputation and very survival.
A family-owned pipe manufacturer for BP made national headlines and faced an EEOC inquiry when photographs surfaced on the Internet of nooses hung at several locations of a plant facility. It was an apparent attempt to harass minority workers who had complained about biased treatment by white managers. The NAACP and plaintiff’s lawyers alleged the company had a history of tolerating racially insensitive behavior, citing dozens of examples over several years.
LEVICK instantly created an employee task force to develop solutions for creating a better workplace and enlisting a number of prominent workplace and diversity experts to listen to worker concerns. At the same time, we organized meetings with community leaders, who helped us keep the situation from erupting into a national controversy. Instead of ducking the problem, we took a proactive leadership position.
The company was able to mitigate negative news coverage and reach an amicable settlement with all involved. There was no further litigation on the horizon. Crisis communications is about solving problems, not papering them over.
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