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Even After Lawsuit, Report Reveals Food Service Co Still Struggles With Diversity


On the five-year anniversary of the 2005 settlement of the class action discrimination lawsuit brought by African American managers against Sodexo, community leaders and Sodexo workers gave testimony at a press conference and released a new report scrutinizing Sodexo's progress on increasing opportunities for African Americans to advance within the company.

Key Facts

  • Increase in Proportion of African-American managers at Sodexo, 2004-2009: 0.14%

  • Increase in Proportion of all Minority at Sodexo, 2004-2009:2.01%

  • Percentage of African-American Managers:
    . . . at Sodexo: 12.65%
    . . . in the food service industry:14.00%
    . . . in the janitorial industry:15.90%

The report made public today, "Missing the Mark: Revisiting Sodexo's Record on Diversity," states, "The proportion of African American managers has increased less than 1 percent between 2004 and 2009 while the overall proportion of minority managers has increased by only 2 percent over the same period." These numbers cast doubt on the diversity awards about which Sodexo boasts, some of which are from companies and organizations that receive sponsorships from the company. You can read the report at the end of this post.

To settle the landmark discrimination lawsuit, Sodexo agreed to pay $80 million and follow diversity and inclusion guidelines as part of a consent decree that expires today. But while federal oversight of Sodexo's employment practices comes to an end today, the company still has a long way to go on the issue of diversity. A number of frontline Sodexo workers have raised concerns with their ability to rise through the ranks and even basic issues like respect and dignity on the job when confronted with racially charged comments.

"We had a director at our unit actually refer to the employees as monkeys," said George Spivey, a Sodexo worker at Georgia Tech. "It bothers me to even talk about it. I went to Human Resources to report a complaint. I don't know if they ever did an investigation."

"I worked with a chef who would pull down his pants, use the 'n' word, and always had this thing about 'you people' referring to us being different from him," said Rubynell Barbee, a Sodexo worker at Morehouse College. "I brought it up with Human Resources but they said since he was part black it was ok. I don't think that it's ok."

On behalf of renowned civil rights leader Joseph Lowery, the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda read a statement saying, "Sodexo has benefited from the contributions of all of its workers as it became a global food service leader, so it must also recognize that all of its employees deserve to benefit from fair and equitable employment practices." The statement continued with a promise to "stand with these employees who have felt the pain of injustice and discrimination until the company lives up to the commitment of fair and just employment without fear and intimidation."

Students from area universities including Morehouse, Georgia Tech, Emory and attended and spoke committing to continued support for workers on their campuses as they struggle to exercise their rights for better working conditions amidst a Sodexo management campaign of intimidation.

"In today's economy an individual worker cannot hold accountable an international corporation, which is why a global agreement allowing workers to exercise their human right to organize with their coworkers is a critical piece in creating opportunity at Sodexo--especially for African American and minority workers," said Harris Raynor, Southern Regional Director of the SEIU affiliate Workers United. "This is a global movement to gain human rights for Sodexo employees and all working families."

Read the full report here:

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