Fifteen former employees of Equitas Health, a Columbus-based health-care provider for the LGBTQ community, say the organization is plagued by a revolving-door culture in which employees of color don’t last long amid an environment of racial discrimination.
The former employees told The Columbus Dispatch that they have experienced or witnessed mistreatment of Black employees and discrimination in hiring, promotion and discipline.
“According to multiple accounts, white staff members moved their desks away from one Black employee because they felt uncomfortable with discussions about race. On another occasion, an employee of color was placed in a closet as punishment by a white supervisor,” reports the Dispatch.
Complaints about racism have not been taken seriously by leadership, the former employees said, though Equitas
Despite having a fairly diverse leadership team with 29% of senior executives being people of color, former Equitas employees say complaints about racism were not been taken seriously by leadership.
In one example, CEO Bill Hardy questioned whether microaggressions existed, a former staffer said.
“Equitas takes employee concerns seriously, and the senior leadership team has taken steps to advance anti-racism within the company, where 36% of staff are people of color,” according to
Daphne Kackloudis, chief public policy and administrative officer, tells the Dispatch that the organization takes employee concerns seriously, and the senior leadership team has taken steps to advance anti-racism within the company, where 36% of staff are people of color.
“Equitas Health and its predecessor organizations have always aimed to provide care and services for all,” Kackloudis said in a statement. “We are committed to ongoing diversity and inclusion and recognize that fully realizing our mission to be the gateway to good health for those impacted by HIV, the LGBTQ+ community, and all others who seek a welcoming health care home, is predicated on our journey toward becoming an anti-racist organization.”
Equitas said it created a diversity and inclusion strategic plan and a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) committee on its 17-member board of trustees and has distributed a staff culture survey in addition to instituting mandatory diversity and inclusion training.
Despite these steps, a May 28 email to leadership from Equitas’ employee group on racial equity raised concerns about “patterns of discriminatory practices … disrespectful, degrading and dehumanizing treatment of BIPOC staff,” and fear of retaliation.
“We recognize that over the last 12 months, Equitas Health has taken some steps toward becoming an anti-racist and anti-oppressive organization,” the email stated. “(But) we must speak out against the white supremacist power structure that continues to govern the Equitas Health work environment. It is time for Equitas Health’s senior leadership to reach beyond performativity and initiate actual deep and lasting change at all levels of the organization.”
The group is requesting an apology to the staff and community that acknowledges harm done. It is also asking for an audit of the conditions for employees of color and termination policies for marginalized staff. It also is requesting an apology to the staff and community that acknowledges harm done.
“Equitas disputes claims made by an employee that senior leadership failed to respond to the group’s concerns,” reports the Dispatch. “Last year, Equitas hired a director of diversity and inclusion. Employees have praised her efforts, but they are calling for a chief diversity officer to be hired to advance change from the C-suite.”
“There is no one in senior leadership who understands the diversity, equity and inclusion field enough to really advocate for it,” said Liz Rose-Cohen, 47, of Berwick, who left her position as content manager in August. “They don’t believe that there’s systemic change that needs to happen.”
In a statement, Kaleidoscope Youth Center, the largest and longest-serving organization in Ohio solely dedicated to serving and supporting LGBTQIA+ youth, called on Equitas to make the necessary changes in its organization by transforming the “conditions and structures that allowed harm to occur in the first place.”
They added: “In the recently released Dispatch article, former and current employees at Equitas Health shared their personal and witnessed experiences of race based discrimination, retaliation, and overall harm; actions that are born of racist ideology, conscious or not. And we believe them. We believe them, not because these experiences are unique to one organization, but because we know that as a community we need to do and be better as it relates to creating and maintaining environments of affirmation and belonging.”