By: Gregg Zeff
On: June 27, 2020
The tragic death of George Floyd, and hundreds of other black Americans at the hands of police, has invoked an astonishing response from communities across the country. Hundreds of protests have occurred, with citizens demanding change in policing tactics and calling for the defunding of police forces. News networks have covered stories around the clock about police brutality and race discrimination in police forces for weeks. The topic of police brutality, particularly police brutality against racial African Americans, has certainly captivated our attention this year. It has been an emotional, yet crucial conversation that is long overdue.
It is not uncommon for businesses, both large and small, to avoid getting involved in social or political movements. However, there is no denying the magnitude and importance of the events that are currently occurring in our country, and now, even corporate America is taking action to promote diversity, equality, and justice.
How Common is Police Brutality in the United States?
Police brutality is sadly a very common occurrence. In 2019, police were responsible for the deaths of 1,098 Americans across the country, according to MappingPoliceViolence.org. That’s an average of about three people every day. In fact, there were only 27 days in 2019 in which police did not kill someone.
Of course, these statistics on their own are shocking. However, what is even more tragic is that black Americans are three times more likely to die during a confrontation with a police officer than white Americans, despite statistics also showing that black Americans are 1.3 times more likely to be unarmed in these encounters than white Americans. To illustrate this point further, of the 1,098 individuals killed by police last year, 24% of them were black, despite the fact that black Americans make up only 13% of the population.
How are Companies Responding to the Death of George Floyd?
The general public has not been the only force publicly calling for change in our policing systems. Companies across the nation are similarly speaking out against racism, condemning discrimination and supporting organizations such as the NAACP, the Equal Justice Initiative, and the Black Lives Matter movement. We have seen a sharp increase in the number of public statements made by companies, both in person and on social media, in which companies share their support for racial equality and demand an end to police brutality. In some cases, companies have fired employees who have demonstrated discriminatory behaviors.
How have Public Statements in Response to George Floyd’s Death been Received?
For the most part, public comments have been well received. The movement is clearly gaining traction and that the message is spreading. However, statements made by some companies, such as Amazon and Microsoft were not as popular. For example, many were quick to point out the hypocrisy of Amazon’s statement, when the company has such a striking reputation for poor treatment of their employees. Microsoft was similarly accused of sharing empty words, as many pointed out that the company’s workforce includes less than 5% American Americans, and an even less diverse upper management.
Others gained a mixed response. Facebook was similarly rebuked when many users pointed out that the social media platform is less responsive in removing user posts with racist or derogatory content. However, Facebook has played an essential role in spreading the word about the systemic problems in our country, and also pledged to donate millions of dollars to organizations invested in combatting police brutality and race discrimination in policing.
Have companies made internal statements or HR policy changes in response to the death of George Floyd?
In addition to public statements, many companies have also made internal, company-wide statements to their employees. The most successful of these actions have acknowledged the serious problem of racial injustice in our country and have encouraged employees to stay educated on the matter and to listen to the needs of others. Others have reinforced that racial intolerance will not be permitted and have further reinforced the importance of diversity in the workplace.
Should Companies Consult a Race Discrimination Attorney or an Employment Lawyer before making HR Policy Changes in Response to the Death of George Floyd?
Police brutality is undeniably an important topic that is currently at the center of many Americans’ thoughts. Understandably, companies and businesses want to be a part of the conversation as well. Nevertheless, it is a sensitive topic that needs to be addressed respectfully and thoughtfully. Making changes to your HR policy is a great first step to demonstrating your company’s support for this cause, but those changes still have to be made intelligently and in accordance with anti-discrimination laws. Zeff Law Firm is experienced in employment law and race discrimination and can help you achieve the goal of updating company policies and join the effort in making meaningful changes in our business communities.