Without informing anybody, at least not in a straightforward manner, the Tennessee Department of Human Resources’ (DOHR) leadership staff this year snuck in a diversity and equity council program that they want state agencies to enforce.
Gov. Bill Lee, according to the DOHR’s 2020 Annual Report, told Commissioner Juan Williams in June of last year “to build a framework for strengthening efforts around the employee experience in our workplace.”
But Williams took Lee’s original mandate and apparently distorted it into something else entirely — indoctrinating the DOHR and all other state agencies into woke politics and left-wing Diversity and Equity propaganda.
The annual report said DOHR staff, also in June of last year, “established a statewide framework to sustain Diversity & Equity [D&E].”
“Recent events have highlighted a need to foster an environment in which conversations about race, diversity, and equity are productive and thoughtful parts of the employee experience,” according to the 2020 DOHR Annual Report.
DOHR staff said they wanted to make working for the State of Tennessee “an edifying and equitable experience for all employees who have chosen the calling of public service.”
“As we navigate D&E together, the statewide framework is designed to engage all stakeholders in sustaining diversity and equity now and in the future,” according to the report.
Last October, DOHR officials, according to their annual report, released a Starting the Conversation Guide “to facilitate healthy discussions on diversity and equity.”
The Tennessee Star obtained another DOHR document that calls for “Diversity and Equity Champions” to connect directly with an Enterprise Diversity and Equity Council and also connect with teams who focus on Leadership Development and Diversity and Equity Strategy. The stated vision: “To ensure working for the State of Tennessee continues to be a fair and equitable experience for every single employee by creating an environment in which employees thrive.”
Each state agency, the DOHR document went on to say, should establish an action plan that, among other things, requires that State of Tennessee employees discuss race and diversity and develop strategies to address inequities. Another part of the plan requires state employees to educate themselves about work-related D&E through conferences, newsletters, and team-building activities.
The DOHR document went on to address other topics.
“Keep in mind unconscious bias in crafting messaging to promote conscious communication. Adopt more diverse and equitable language in your communications and writing to foster a sense of belonging,” DOHR employees wrote in the document.
“Share this approach with internal stakeholders at all levels and communicate the seriousness and impact of words on how welcome and included employees feel and how stakeholders perceive the organization.”
The document also calls for measuring total workforce composition by demographic group and who state agencies hire and promote.
Members of The Diversity and Equity Council, according to another DOHR document, would collect qualitative and quantitative data to ensure that state agencies meet specified benchmarks. An Agency Diversity and Equity Council would “implement the diversity and equity strategy at an agency level [while] keeping geographic and cultural nuances in mind.”
“The framework and launch of the council is essential to the long-term success of accomplishing diversity and equity goals and impacting the culture of the agency,” according to the DOHR document.
This council would have diverse representation, according to the document.
DOHR officials through a Jan. 21 press release notified the public about their 2020 Annual Report. That press release linked to the annual report. In their press release, DOHR officials discussed Forbes’ America’s Best Employers by State report, the impacts of COVID-19 from a management perspective “and a heightened focus on diversity and equity.” The annual report, however, obscures talk of any D&E Framework in only a few lines on its third and sixth pages.
DOHR documents identify department staff members who crafted this D&E Framework.
• DOHR Commissioner Juan Williams: Gov. Lee appointed Williams to this position. According to the DOHR’s website, Williams spent 14 years at Duke Energy’s Piedmont Natural Gas Division in management positions in Human Resources, Utility Operations, and Change Readiness, where he advised staff about workplace culture. He also served as the director of Change Readiness with focuses on business process, systems and technology, talent management and restructuring.
• DOHR Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel Lesley Farmer:According to the DOHR’s website, Farmer previously served as the EEO administrator and the department’s deputy general counsel. She previously served as the Tennessee Department of Education’s (TDOE’s) assistant general counsel for Civil Rights. Her responsibilities included investigating civil rights complaints.
• DOHR Assistant Commissioner Coretta Young: According to the DOHR’s website, Young previously directed the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services’ (DCS’s) Human Resources Department.
• DOHR Chief Strategy Officer Amanda Adams: Adams, according to her LinkedIn page, has served in various capacities as a state employee since January 2011, including communications deputy for former Tennessee First Lady Crissy Haslam. Adams also served as Knoxville office manager and East Tennessee field representative for former Gov. Bill Haslam during his 2010 campaign for Tennessee’s top office.
• DOHR Director of Talent Management Jennifer Harris-Brown: Brown, according to her LinkedIn page, has served as a State of Tennessee employee since April 2014 as a director of leadership programs and a performance coach facilitator. She previously worked for Vanderbilt’s Department of Anesthesiology as an assistant director of human resources.
Williams apparently made no mention of the diversity and equity plan to either the Tennessee Senate Government Operations Committee or the Tennessee House Government Operations Committee when they convened earlier this year.
Williams in March presented a DOHR budget at a Tennessee House of Representatives Finance Budget Hearing. What Williams represented as he testified was not the program he implemented.
“We are requesting $265,800 for two positions to sustain workforce diversity and equity and enrich the employee experience for all. Through HR’s lead in the statewide diversity and equity efforts by leveraging workforce data and providing a comprehensive approach to diversity and equity,” Williams told committee members, as captured on video.
“This will also support the Model Employer Program that assists agencies to ensure certain employment practices in regards to individuals with disabilities that are part of state government.”
Williams said nothing during that presentation about a D&E Council.
At that hearing, State Rep. Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station) asked about the $265,800 for workforce diversity and equity.
“This diversity and equity and inclusion is not something that we need to be spending state dollars on. We are programming people to believe something that is propaganda. I am totally against that. We do not need to be teaching people how to treat others. I think we know how to treat others. So we’re creating a class of people that are protected and to pay this amount of money for two positions is just totally ridiculous,” Sexton said.
“Now, excluding the disabilities, we all understand that, but it goes against so many of our people and our culture. I am totally against this. I think this is running amuck in our country, especially with this kind of money that we are spending.”
Williams said nothing to rebut Sexton.
Sources who are familiar with the situation informed The Star that Gov. Lee is now aware of these rogue staff efforts to distort his June 2020 charge to DHR by inserting “diversity and equity” into his order. Those sources said Lee will directly address the issue with DHR leadership this week.
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