The Pulse: Hello Alice Prevails in Anti-DEI Lawsuit


On May 28, a judge dismissed a case challenging minority and women-owned business, Hello Alice‘s grant program for Black-owned small businesses. This is a huge win for the minority business community and efforts to advance a more equitable and resilient economy. Read more about this victory and other DEI news, court cases, and developments in this month’s edition of the Pulse.

Picture of man in a blue suit holding a table that has DEI projecting from it.

DEI In the News

Court Dismisses Anti-DEI Lawsuit Against Hello Alice
Inc. Magazine, May 28

UNC System Board of Governors votes to repeal DEI policy
CNN, May 23

Jacksonville State announces closure of DEI office
Alabama Political Reporter, May 23

EEOC Republican casts doubt on ‘business case’ for workplace
DEI Bloomberg Law, May 22

Florida attorney general says state will investigate Starbucks for DEI practices
USA Today, May 22

US lawsuit challenges Southwest Air’s free ticket program for Hispanic students
Reuters, May 20

Citigroup accused of discriminating against white people on ATM fees
USA Today, May 20

Honeywell DEI training fight tests civil rights law at 7th Cir.
Bloomberg Law, May 20

NFL legend Emmitt Smith blasts Florida for ending DEI programs
The Hill, May 20

Opinion: The problem with diversity statements — and what to do about them
The Washington Post, May 19

Are DEI-based jobs disappearing in 2024? Here’s what you need to know.
Inc. Magazine, May 18

DEI and AI: navigating a future of immense potential
Forbes, May 17

OP-ED: Anti-DEI campaigns are part of a 170-year-old cycle of racial advancement and backlash
New York Amsterdam News, May 16

DEI on the run
National Review, May 16

Texas university leaders say hundreds of positions, programs cut to comply with DEI ban
AP News, May 14

UNC board votes to cut DEI funding
The Hill, May 13

Backlash from DEI programs fueled hate speech at city meeting in Oregon
NPR, May 13

King & Spalding sued over diverse law student hiring program
Bloomberg Law, May 10

What we lose when we cut D and E from DEI
Fast Company, May 10

IBM’s red hat sued by Stephen Miller’s legal group for anti-white male bias
Bloomberg Law, May 8

EEOC Republican warns employers on workplace DEI, politics
Bloomberg, May 7

Republican lawmakers order audit into DEI initiatives at state agencies, UW
Wisconsin Public Radio, May 7

M.I.T. will no longer require diversity statements for hiring faculty
The New York Times, May 6

Is the corporate DEI panic finally over?
Financial Times, May 6

DEI is getting a new name. Can it dump the political baggage?
The Washington Post, May 5

MIT becomes first elite university to ban diversity statements
UnHerd, May 5

DeSantis takes aim again at workplace dei despite court loss
Bloomberg Law, May 2

Massachusetts doubles down on DEI
Axios, May 2

Exclusive: Trump says ‘anti-White feeling’ is a problem in the U.S.
Time Magazine, April 30

Can Fearless Fund invest only in Black women? This case will decide.
The Washington, Post April 29

Adidas built a brand on Black celebrities but workers say it fell short on its own DEI efforts
Fortune, April 29

The state of underrepresented entrepreneurs in DEI clawbacks
Forbes, April 29

4 common arguments against DEI—and how to dismantle each one
FastCompany, April 28

In good news for employers and DEI programs, the U.S. Supreme Court requires Title VII discrimination plaintiffs to show workplace-related harm
JD Supra, April 26

Inside the crisis at N.P.R.
The New York Times, April 24

DEI In the Courts

Beneker v. CBS Studios, Inc., et al.
On Feb. 29, 2024, America First Legal filed a lawsuit on behalf of Brian Beneker against CBS Studios for alleged violation of the Civil Rights act of 1964. The plaintiff, Beneker, is a script coordinator and freelance scriptwriter who has been consistently writing episodes for a CBS television series. He alleged that he was “repeatedly denied a staff writer position” on the show despite positions being available. Beneker believes he was passed over for the position in favor of “nonwhite, LGBTQ, or female” candidates.

  • On April 30, the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed one of the CBS entities, CBS Entertainment Group, LLC, as a defendant. On May 13,  he filed an amended complaint against the remaining defendants, CBS Studios, Inc. and Paramount Global, re-alleging that they discriminated against him by denying him employment based on his race, sex, and sexual orientation in favor of less qualified applicants who were members of “more preferred groups.”

Sacks v. Texas Southern University
Deana Pollard Sacks, a white female law professor, sued Texas Southern University (TSU), alleging discrimination based on race and sex under Title VII, the Equal Pay Act, and 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. Sacks claimed harassment, unequal pay, and forced resignation after raising concerns about a gender pay gap. Her first suit’s claims were mostly dismissed except for the Equal Pay Act, which she lost at trial. The second suit was dismissed entirely.

  • In February and March 2023, Sacks filed two petitions for a writ of certiorari. On May 13, the Supreme Court denied both petitions.

Californians for Equal Rights Foundation v. City of San Diego
On March 12,  the Californians for Equal Rights Foundation sued the City of San Diego, claiming the BIPOC First-Time Homebuyer Program discriminates based on race, violating the Equal Protection Clause. The plaintiffs represent members willing to buy homes but ineligible for the program due to race.

  • On May 1, the City of San Diego, Housing Authority, and San Diego Housing Commission responded, denying the allegations of unconstitutional race discrimination.

Allan Kingsley Wood v. Red Hat, Inc.
On May 8, America First filed a lawsuit on Wood’s behalf after first filing a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Wood, a former senior director at enterprise software company Red Hat, alleged he was fired in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act for being White and male after he spoke out against the company’s push to hire based on race and gender. The plaintiff “felt that he was being targeted, marked, and labeled as an undesirable employee for voicing his opinions in opposition to Red Hat’s DEI policies,” attorneys for the plaintiff said in their complaint. The plaintiff was fired along with 21 additional people, all of whom (with one exception) were white and male, after company leadership announced a goal to reach 30% female and 30% minority workers by 2028, according to the complaint.

  • A Red Hat spokesperson provided a written statement to the claims made in Wood’s lawsuit. “These allegations are baseless, as neither race nor gender played any role in the decision to end this individual’s employment with Red Hat,” the spokesperson wrote.

Poer v. Jefferson Cty. Comm’n
In August 2019, Angela Poer sued the Jefferson County Commission in Alabama, claiming they discriminated against her because of her race. She said they refused her request to transfer and fired her unlawfully. Poer argued that her boss, who is Black, made her work environment uncomfortable and rejected her transfer request because she didn’t like white people. The court ruled in favor of the Commission, saying there wasn’t enough evidence to prove racial discrimination in Poer’s case. Poer then appealed the decision.

  • On May 1, the Eleventh Circuit upheld the district court’s decision in favor of the Commission. They said the Commission had valid reasons for firing Poer, like her frequent absences and problems handling money. The court didn’t agree with Poer’s claim that her boss’s alleged racist comments were enough to prove discrimination. They said Poer couldn’t show that these comments influenced the people who fired her.

Cooper v. The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball et al.
On April 24,  A former minor league baseball umpire filed a lawsuit against Major League Baseball. He claimed he was fired after reporting harassment and homophobic slurs from a female umpire. The lawsuit says MLB had a “diversity quota” that promoted women regardless of their performance. The plaintiff says this encouraged the female umpire to make comments like, “I can do anything because I’m a woman,” and “MLB has to hire women, they won’t get rid of me unless I quit.”

Alexandre v., Inc
White, Asian, and Native Hawaiian entrepreneurs, representing a potential group of previous and prospective applicants to Amazon’s “delivery service partner” (DSP) program, contested a DEI initiative which offers $10,000 grants to eligible delivery service providers who identify as “Black, Latinx, and Native American entrepreneurs.” The plaintiffs have accused Amazon of breaching California state civil rights statutes that forbid discrimination. The complaint alleged the opportunity for this stipend violated 42 U.S.C. § 1981 by discriminating against whites and Asian Americans. The America First Legal Foundation, which filed suit on behalf of the plaintiff, included this action on its website as one of its “featured actions” in the “DEI” space. For her part, the white plaintiff did not complete an application for the DSP program after allegedly learning that she would not be eligible for the stipend but alleged that she would immediately apply for it once Amazon revoked its alleged racially discriminatory policy. On Dec. 6, 2023, Amazon filed a motion to dismiss the case.

  • On April 25, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas granted Amazon’s motion to dismiss the complaint, finding that the plaintiff lacked Article III standing to pursue § 1981 claim. In reaching this result, the court found that none of the five injuries the plaintiff alleged were concrete, particularized, and actual or imminent, and thus, the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s claim.

Do No Harm v. Pfizer
On Sept. 15, 2022, plaintiff association representing physicians, medical students, and policymakers sued Pfizer, alleging that the company’s Breakthrough Fellowship Program, which provided minority college seniors summer internships, two years of employment post-graduation, and a scholarship, violated Section 1981, Title VII, and New York law by excluding white and Asian applicants. The court dismissed the case in December 2022, stating that Do No Harm lacked standing because it didn’t identify specific members, instead only submitting declarations from anonymous members. On March 6,  the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal.

  • On April 3, four amicus briefs were filed in support of DNH’s petition for a rehearing en banc. Briefs were filed by: (1) Speech First, (2) Pacific Legal Foundation, (3) Young America’s Foundation, The Manhattan Institute, and Southeastern Legal Foundation, and (4) the American Alliance for Equal Rights, which is “dedicated to challenging distinctions and preferences made on the basis of race and ethnicity.” The four briefs argue that prohibiting anonymity in sensitive cases with “vulnerable plaintiffs” violates  the First Amendment and negates the purpose of associational standing in the public interest litigation context.

Bowen v. City and County of Denver
On April 5, Joseph Bowen, a sergeant with the Denver Police Department, sued the Department and the City and County of Denver. He asserts that the Department’s “30×30” program, aiming for 30% female representation among police recruits by 2030, resulted in his not being promoted to captain in favor of three less-qualified female candidates. Bowen contends that the Department discriminated against him based on his gender, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

  • A scheduling conference is scheduled for June 25.

Other DEI Developments

May 14: Colorado’s Worker Freedom Act was sent to Governor Jared Polis for approval. The act prevents employers from disciplining employees who refuse to attend employer meetings, except DEI trainings. Aimed at stopping mandatory “captive audience meetings” used to counter union organizing, it does not protect employees who skip state-mandated harassment or DEI training. Governor Polis has until June 13 to sign or veto the bill, after which it will become law automatically.

May 13: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Board of Trustees approved a change that would divert $2.3 million of diversity funding to go toward public safety and policing at a special meeting to address the university’s budget. The board’s vote would only impact UNC-Chapel Hill’s diversity funding, which could result in the loss of its diversity office. The vote to shift more funding to public safety comes as continued protests on UNC’s campus have resulted in several arrests in recent weeks.

May 10: The University of Wyoming announced it would eliminate its Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, but the university will move the office’s staff and programming to other departments following legislation signed by the governor. The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees voted unanimously to scrap the department after a budget bill signed into law by Gov. Mark Gordon (R-WY) stripped $1.73 million from the school’s $503.7 million budget. Gordon used a line-item veto to save DEI ideology in programming, only getting rid of the dedicated office.

May 9: King & Spalding was sued for alleged race, color, and sex discrimination under Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. The plaintiff, a first-year law student, claimed she didn’t apply to the firm’s diversity program due to perceived futility despite being qualified. After filing with the EEOC, the Commission found reasonable cause for discrimination and issued a right to sue. King & Spalding has not yet been served.

May 9: Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed SF 2435 into law. This bill prohibits DEI offices, programs, and trainings referencing race, color, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation in state universities. It reallocates DEI funds to the Iowa workforce grant and incentive program starting in 2025. Representative Adam Zabner criticized the bill, calling it an embarrassment for underfunding education and promoting fearmongering. The law will take effect on July 1, 2025.

May 1: Congressional Republicans said they had asked NPR’s new chief executive, Katherine Maher, to address accusations of political bias in the radio network’s journalism during a hearing next week. A trio of Republican lawmakers — Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, Bob Latta of Ohio and Morgan Griffith of Virginia — sent a six-page letter to Ms. Maher notifying her of an investigation into the network and requested her appearance on May 8.

April 25: The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for the U.S. Department of Education opened an investigation into Western Kentucky University’s Athletics Minority Fellowship program. The investigation responds to a complaint filed on Sept. 16, 2023, by the Equal Protection Project (EPP) alleging that the program discriminates on the basis of race and national origin because white students are not eligible.

April 24: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), a conservative nonprofit organization, sent a letter to the American Bar Association (ABA) concerning its Judicial Clerkship Program and Judicial Intern Opportunity Program, claiming that these programs unlawfully use race as a criterion for selecting participants. WILL alleges that the criteria for both of these programs constitute unlawful racial quotas. In its letter, WILL cautioned the ABA that it will pursue legal action unless the ABA announces by April 30 that these programs will no longer consider race as an eligibility factor. As of May 7, WILL has not reported any subsequent legal action.

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