Magazine article Workforce Management

Sodexho Set for Overhaul after Lawsuit

Magazine article Workforce Management

Sodexho Set for Overhaul after Lawsuit

Article excerpt

Equal opportunity

WHEN A JUDGE this summer formally approves the $80 million settlement of a racial discrimination lawsuit against Sodexho, the food services company and its 3,400 black employees will begin work to forge new standards for the processing of applications, employee advancement and company communication. That kind of reform is tough under the best circumstances. In this instance, however, the Gaithersburg, Maryland-based company has to dismantle practices that plaintiffs say barred meaningful advancement for its black employees for years.

How they reach those goals largely defiends on the 52-page consent decree that the parties sign. It serves as a legal mission statement and runs through 2009, establishing an independent, five-person committee that will monitor the progress of the accord and spelling out the measures Sodexho will implement. On that count, the company believes it has a head start: It began taking corrective action before the settlement. Those measures also appear in the consent decree.

Three years ago, for example, it began offering affirmative action training for managers at various levels, and a year ago the company made similar training retroactive for human resources managers who were employed as of September 2002. Because of the litigation, CEO Richard Macedonia declined to be interviewed, but he said in a statement that the settlement allows Sodexho to "focus on continuing to build a benchmark company for diversity and inclusion."

"We remain strongly committed to our policy of equal employment opportunity that allows every Sodexho employee to reach their potential in achieving personal success within our company," Macedonia said in the statement.

For Cynthia Carter McReynolds, a 21 -year veteran of the company and a lead plaintiff in the case, it has been a long time coming.

"I have seen slow, gradual change," she says, acknowledging the initiatives management took before the settlement. …

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