Employers ignoring systemic discrimination

Coke’s landmark settlement in the U.S. shines light on issue of discrimination in the workplace and many Canadian employers are still failing
By David Brown
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 06/18/2002

In what’s being viewed by many south of the border as a watershed case — or at the very least one that made people sit up and take notice — soft-drink giant Coca-Cola Co. agreed last month to spend US$192-million to settle a class-action racial discrimination lawsuit with a group of employees and former employees.

It’s expected the decision will go a long way to making American businesses more vigilant when it comes to creating inclusive workplaces.

While the significant differences between the Canadian and American judicial systems mean we’re unlikely to see comparable settlements north of the 49th, employers are deluding themselves if they believe discrimination isn’t a problem in Canadian workplaces, say diversity experts. There have been cases in Canada in recent years of employers being ordered to implement employment equity plans not dissimilar to Coke’s in order to change the behaviours that are considered discriminatory.