How Employee Assistance Programs Can Help Your Whole Company Address Racism at Work


Executive Summary

With protests against racism continuing around the world, many workplaces are finally attempting to challenge — and dismantle — their own systems that uphold racist views and policies. For many companies, well-positioned Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that hold strong relationships with workplace leaders can be part of the solution. The author recommends six actions for EAP professionals, programs, and the workplaces they support.

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It may surprise some employers to know that when employees experience racism and/or other forms of discrimination and oppression, one of the places they can turn for help is their Employee Assistance Program or EAP. While EAPs are thought of more often for use by employees for short-term counseling and referrals to help employees manage personal problems so that they don’t interfere with work performance and productivity, it is important to remember that EAPs also provide workplaces with services including organizational assessment, management consultation and strategic crisis prevention and response. It is precisely because of this mix of individual and organizational level of services that EAPs are in a unique position to help employees work through the trauma of racism and to provide workplace leaders with an invaluable insider view of complex workplace problems, including racism.

As a professor and chair of the only Masters in Social Work (MSW) program with a focus on preparing graduates for careers in the field of Employee Assistance, I have received numerous calls over the past several months from employers asking for advise and consultation regarding how they can work to challenge — and dismantle — their own systems that uphold racist views and policies.

Additionally, I have heard from many EAP managers and counselors, also asking how their EAPs can play a more significant role in helping workplaces respond to systemic racism. On more than one occasion, EAP professionals have confided that they felt powerless after working one-on-one with an employee who is suffering effects of racism. Simply offering stress management support did not feel adequate, and they lacked a line of communication to management to report the need for systemic change.

Similarly, EAP managers are receiving calls from managers and supervisors whose employees are requesting workplace meetings to discuss issues or race and racism. And workplace leaders are asking how their EAPs can play a bigger role in helping to influence system-level change to combat racism.

In response, I’ve developed a list of six things employers need to do to build a more effective partnership with their EAPs that will not only support individual employees during this period of massive social change, but also support managers and supervisors and help to ensure meaningful and sustained long-term reform.

1. Encourage a data-driven approach to customized EAP services.

A data-driven approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion within our EAPs and broader workplaces is critical if we are to make real impact in dismantling systemic racism. You need to know who is — and isn’t — using your EAP. You cannot identify service utilization gaps without data. Is your EAP collecting data on race, ethnicity, income, and gender identity?  How are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) who sought out EAP services being helped? What are the outcomes? Data can be reported to the workplace in the aggregate so that individual employee demographics and identities are protected and kept anonymous from employers.

2. Support an EAP counselor and affiliate network that is responsive to your workplace.

Employers should encourage EAPs to conduct an audit of their staff and counselors — not just to see if they are accepting certain health insurance plans, but to see who is providing the services. EAPs often ask if clients have a preference for counselor gender and language, but is your EAP asking clients for a preference with regard to race and/or ethnicity? And if they did ask, could the EAP realistically meet their preference? Are EAP counselors trained to provide culturally responsive and culturally relevant services?

In addition to auditing the EAP counselor/affiliate network, take a good look at the EAP marketing and promotional materials that are being shared with your employees. Are these materials inclusive and do they provide an accurate reflection of the racial demographics of your workplace, in addition to other characteristics? If not, work in partnership with your EAP to support revising materials, both in print and online, to better align with your employee demographics.

3. Encourage managers and other leaders to take advantage of the EAP for themselves.

Many managers and supervisors are finding themselves eager to learn more about racism and implicit bias, but fearful to admit what they don’t know or to make a mistake. Assume that they would all benefit from education and consultation. EAPs can play a role by equipping leaders with resources so they can do their own learning and introspection, and feel more competent in their abilities to lead difficult conversations about race. Encourage managers and workplace leaders who have used EAP services in the past to share their story. Demonstrating leadership buy-in and commitment is one of the best ways to increase EAP utilization within a work organization.

4. Create a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion advisory committee that includes your EAP.

A diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) advisory committee can help companies consider their public stance against racism and how it helps — or hurts — employees. The EAP should work in partnership with this committee to assess needs and help leaders create answers without placing unfair burden on BIPOC. Additionally, the EAP can provide de-identified examples of employees’ first-hand accounts of racism to help workplace leaders understand the deep impact of racism within a workplace and potential points throughout the work organization for support, intervention, and change.

5. Recognize racism as trauma.

Racism is a form of trauma, and EAPs need to apply a trauma-informed approach to all of their work, actively working to resist re-traumatizing a person or community when providing support and providing culturally responsive counseling and support services to individuals who have been traumatized by racism. PsychHub created a list of resources that serve as a starting point to inform workplaces about how to provide more trauma-informed and culturally responsive care to employees. Share this list with your EAP and ask what type of advanced training providers have completed with regard to antiracist clinical practice? Encourage, and even financially support through increased reimbursement rates for services, when possible, this type of training for your EAPs and other providers within the workplace.

6. Establish a plan for ongoing feedback to sustain this important work.

Create, or re-activate, an EAP advisory board within each workplace to meet with the EAP regularly and communicate about trends in the workplace, gaps in services needs, and overall response to EAP and related program. Informed and active EAP advisory boards can help EAPs stay abreast of changes that are coming, and board members can help to promote and minimize stigma about using EAPs and related services when they truly understand their potential value. Ensure that people on that board represent different departments, but also represent workplace demographics. Be sure these boards provide a safe and eventually a “brave space” where white people and BIPOC can speak up regarding challenges and injustices that won’t be denied or pushed aside. Design these spaces so that when the hashtags and protests of the current movement end, the work will continue, and EAPs and their client companies will be held accountable for meaningful change and reform.

With protests against racism continuing around the world, well-positioned and well-supported EAPs that hold solid relationships with workplace leaders can be part of the solution. But EAPs and workplaces need to work in partnership to support these goals and visions for organizational change. This list is not exhaustive, but the recommendations serve as starting points on how EAPs can have an even greater role in supporting workplaces to be more antiracist.

Dr. Kyla Liggett-Creel, PhD, LCSW-C, University of Maryland, School of Social Work contributed to this article.



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Angry teenagers accuse village elders of ‘racism’


Angry teenagers accuse village elders of ‘racism’ after they refuse to let them put up BLM message in disused phone box

  • Teenagers in a Wiltshire village wanted to use a phone box as a BLM message
  • Phone boxes were used in the 20th century as a place to house telephones 
  • With the advent of mobile communications, the use of landlines has declined 
  • ‘Traditional’ phone boxes in many heritage locations have been re purposed  

A row has flared after teenagers demanded a Black Lives Matters message should be posted in a disused phone box.

Urchfont, near Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire has a population of around 1,000 people,  but it has become the setting of an international race row. 

Teenagers have accused ‘village elders’ of ‘racism’ after they prevented the youngsters from posting messages supporting the BLM movement. 

Urchfont Parish Council was asked by a group of young people, upset by the death of George Floyd in America, if they could use the box to create ‘a historical information point’.

Lisa Kinnaird, pictured, is standing beside a phone box in Urchfront Village Wiltshire

Local teenagers wanted to re-purpose the abandoned phone box as an information point about the Black Lives Matter movement

Local teenagers wanted to re-purpose the abandoned phone box as an information point about the Black Lives Matter movement

The local parish council voted against the proposal by five votes to three

The local parish council voted against the proposal by five votes to three 

The teenagers, who wanted to re-purpose the phonebox have been told the plan has been rejected by five votes to three. 

Emily Kinnaird told the meeting: ‘Me and my friends thought it would be beneficial if Urchfont showed its support for the Black community.

‘I think it is important to use education to raise awareness of racism especially in predominantly white Wiltshire.’

However, a majority of the local council claimed: ‘The telephone box should be used only for local community purposes, as such this proposal covering the wider issue of racism should be rejected.’

Parish council chairman Graham Day said: ‘The council discussed a proposal for a possible use of the High Street telephone box which is owned by the council.

‘A lengthy debate on this matter took place in our established virtual meeting format, with substantial public input both from those present at the meeting and others who had submitted comments to our clerk.

‘Urchfont Parish Council is a non-political body comprising 11 volunteer members. It represents the interests of all residents across the Parish.’

One member of the public, who joined the meeting via Zoom, said: ‘While not mentioned in the current proposal Black Lives Matter, a patently political movement is clearly the catalyst, a movement that is demonstrably contentious and of itself offers little, to enhance the lives of the Urchfont community.

‘Both the previous and current request/s clearly indicate that it serves the particular interests of a specific group and therefore, regardless of merit, does not meet the criteria of applying to the broader community.’ 

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Heritier Lumumba lodges Supreme Court claim against Collingwood and the AFL for ‘failing to protect him from racism’


Heritier Lumumba is suing Collingwood and the AFL over racist abuse he was allegedly subjected to during his playing days, claiming he suffered trauma, humiliation, distress and loss of enjoyment.

Mr Lumumba filed documents in the Supreme Court on Wednesday outlining his allegations.

The documents claim Collingwood failed to protect the now-retired footballer from racial abuse or racially-offensive conduct.

Mr Lumumba also alleges the AFL did not take steps to protect him from the racial abuse.

“On numerous occasions during his employment, the plaintiff was subjected to racial abuse or racially offensive conduct,” the court documents read.

“By reason of the matters set out above, the plaintiff has suffered loss, damage and injury including trauma, humiliation, distress, and loss of enjoyment.”

The documents also claimed that the AFL owed a duty to Mr Lumumba to take “reasonable steps to prevent players subjecting other players to racial abuse and racially offensive conduct, and to impose sanctions on players who breached those rules”.

“At no relevant time did the [AFL] take any or any sufficient steps to ensure that the plaintiff was not subjected to racial abuse or racially offensive conduct,” the documents read.

The court documents set out that Mr Lumumba is seeking damages, exemplary damages, interest, costs and “such further orders as the court considers just”.

Heritier Lumumba spoke out about his treatment at his old club this year, leading Collingwood to launch an independent review.(Instagram: hlumumba)

In June, Mr Lumumba said a lack of anti-racism policies allowed a culture of discrimination to fester within Collingwood, which led to racist jokes and comments.

Mr Lumumba said he was called “chimp” by some of his teammates during his career at the Magpies.

Collingwood has since launched an independent review into the culture of the club during his time there.

In a June statement, the club said it would not be making further comment until its findings were completed.

Mr Lumumba played 199 games for Collingwood between 2005-2014.

He added a further 24 for Melbourne over two years before retiring at the end of 2016 after struggling to recover from repeated concussions.

Mr Lumumba’s legal counsel, Rhea Dillon responded to ABC with a short statement.

“Mr Lumumba’s experiences as an employee of the Collingwood Football Club are well-documented,” she said.

“He has instructed solicitors to represent him and to take steps to protect his legal rights. Mr Lumumba has no further comment at this time.”

The AFL has been contacted for comment.

AAP/ABC



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Lumumba sues AFL, Collingwood over racism


Heritier Lumumba is suing Collingwood and the AFL over racist abuse he was allegedly subjected to during his playing days, claiming he suffered trauma, humiliation, distress and loss of enjoyment.

As reported by The Age, Lumumba filed documents in the Supreme Court on Wednesday outlining his allegations.

The documents claimed Collingwood failed to protect Lumumba from racial abuse or racially-offensive conduct.

Lumumba also alleges the AFL did not take steps to protect him from the racial abuse.

“On numerous occasions during his employment, the plaintiff was subjected to racial abuse or racially-offensive conduct,” the court documents read.

“(Collingwood) failed to take any or any sufficient steps to provide and maintain a safe working environment, including by protecting the plaintiff from racial abuse or racially-offensive conduct.

“By reason of the matters set out above, the plaintiff has suffered loss, damage, and injury including trauma, humiliation, distress, and loss of enjoyment.”

In June, Lumumba said a lack of anti-racism policies allowed a culture of discrimination to fester within Collingwood, which led to racist jokes and comments.

Lumumba said he was called “chimp” by some of his teammates during his career at the Magpies.

Collingwood have since launched an independent review into the culture of the club during Lumumba’s time there.

Lumumba played 199 games for Collingwood between 2005-2014.

He added a further 24 for Melbourne over two years before retiring at the end of 2016 after struggling to recover from repeated concussions.





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Heritier Lumumba sues Collingwood Football Club and AFL over racism claims


“[Collingwood] failed to take any or any sufficient steps to provide and maintain a safe working environment, including by protecting the Plaintiff from racial abuse or racially-offensive conduct.

Lumumba alleges the AFL did not take any steps to stop the abuse or “racially offensive conduct”.

“By reason of the matters set out above, the plaintiff has suffered loss, damage, and injury including trauma, humiliation, distress, and loss of enjoyment,” the claim reads.

He says the abuse and racial offensive conduct stopped when he was traded to Melbourne in 2014.

In June the Pies appointed Indigenous professor Larissa Behrendt to lead an independent review into the culture at Collingwood during Lumumba’s time at the club.

The findings will be handed to the club’s integrity committee which comprises chief executive Mark Anderson and board members Peter Murphy and Jodie Sizer.

The AFL and Collingwood have been contacted for comment.

MORE TO COME



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Erin Molan vs Daily Mail: Bombshell claim in ‘racism’ defamation case


EXCLUSIVE

The Daily Mail has hit back ferociously at Erin Molan’s defamation lawsuit, raking through several years of rugby league podcasts in a bid to prove in court that the sports presenter is racist.

Among the comments the media outlet has plucked from 2GB’s Continuous Call Team archive and quoted in its defence are Molan saying “You like raw feesh?”, “Pick up your chopsticks” and “I wuv you wery long time”.

The 61-page bombshell truth defence references the Nine star’s co-hosts, alleging the Continuous Call Team frequently spouted “racist content” on the show by mocking Pacific Islander and Maori names and emulating Chinese, Indian and other accents.

Molan’s lawyer told NCA NewsWire in a statement: “Ms Molan has commenced proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia for defamatory allegations made about her by the Daily Mail.



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‘When we arrived here we wanted to become British, but because of racism we weren’t allowed’ – Linton Kwesi Johnson – Channel 4 News


The Jamaican-born poet Linton Kwesi Johnson has been awarded the prestigious PEN Pinter prize. The judges hailed his work, saying he had had a “colossal and multi-generational impact on the cultural landscape of the last half century”.

Linton Kwesi Johnson has chronicled the experience of Black people in Britain since the 1970s, dealing with issues of injustice, immigration and workers’ rights – many of which are as relevant today as ever.



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How the finance industry can combat racism


“I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.” – Amy Cooper 

“I’m a tenant of the building; are you?” – Tom Austin

Amid the unrest, anger, and outrage at the sheer injustice of systemic racism, Amy Cooper and Tom Austin are just two examples of white people using their privilege in an attempt to control Black people who dared to exert personal agency in shared spaces. After being called out publicly, Cooper lost her job, and Austin lost his office lease. 

Why point out these incidents instead of the thousands of other examples? Because while both apologized and stated “I’m not a racist,” they had tremendous influence in the finance industry through their leadership positions. 

There are real questions as to how these implicit biases influenced hiring, advancement, and access to capital at their firms. Their actions in these moments provide a spotlight on how decisions are made in their institutions.

In an industry overwhelmingly driven by personal networks, relationships, and opaque decision-making processes, and dominated by pedigree, the personal quickly becomes (and remains) structural. In this system, decision-makers give preference to peers and managers who look like them. 

These decision-makers think they have to choose between performance and diversity, when in fact they might actually be undermining their fiduciary responsibility by not prioritizing diversity and inclusion. This reality is highlighted in an Illumen Capital study that concludes, “racial bias could potentially result not only in the unfair treatment of fund managers of color and their grantees, but also in leaving significant financial opportunities on the table, thus hurting the entire financial ecosystem.” 

Let’s be clear, we haven’t “found ourselves” in this predicament. The disparities in access, opportunity, and evaluation of performance are the result of intentional decisions that have accumulated advantage and disadvantage along the lines of race. Dismantling the barriers that have resulted requires naming and addressing the truth of systemic racism.

As Ibram X. Kendi has shared in his groundbreaking book, How to Be an Antiracist, claiming that you’re not racist is not enough. We must move in a way that is antiracist and confront features holding the system in place. Here are a few actions asset owners can take:

Be uncomfortable

Anti-Black bias is a central feature of systemic racism, so take a minute to actually understand your bias by taking Harvard’s implicit bias test. This is not to make you feel judged, but to make you aware. If you value diversity, yet continue to invest in nondiverse firms collecting fees to build wealth, then you should do some self-exploration. 

Address institutional accountability

This can be accomplished by issuing a race-informed investment policy statement. Your policy is a statement of purpose that will orient you toward equity. Then hold yourself and your primary decision-making body accountable by using metrics and adding quarterly or annual reporting requirements. This might include tracking the demographic composition and ownership of all firms you’re invested in, the number of firms in your portfolio with majority Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC) ownership, how many meetings you are taking with diverse firms, and how much funding is allocated to such firms across your portfolio. 

Know who you’re doing business with

Include diversity performance and metrics in your consultants’ scope of work and require regular reporting on your decision-makers’ progress toward meeting these goals. Require your consultants to provide information regarding their internal diversity and inclusion policies and practices.

Change the environment

Keep an eye on where and how you spend your time. Attend, sponsor, and speak at diverse management events, and invite those managers to speak at industry events in your sector. 

Pursue relationships with different industry affinity groups

The National Association of Securities Professionals, National Association of Investment Companies, Association of Asian American Investment Managers, New America Alliance, and Opportunity Hub are a few examples. Establish regular contact and connection with diverse managers and make a robust list of media to consume on this topic, such as Emerging Manager Monthly and The Plug.

Once you’ve taken these steps, go and allocate your funds with diversity in mind.

This moment has been building for generations. Let’s accept the challenge and make change that will help us all.

Erika Seth Davies is a Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation fellow and founder of the Racial Equity Asset Lab. She is the author of “Foundation Investment Management Practices: Thoughts on Alpha and Access for the Field” and “Diverse Managers: Philanthropy’s Next Hurdle.”

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