A conservative legal group on Wednesday urged a U.S. anti-discrimination agency to investigate Kellogg over workplace diversity policies that it says are unlawful, and accused the cereal maker of sexualizing its products.
This is the second complaint filed this week against a company by America First Legal, a nonprofit run by Stephen Miller, who was an adviser to former President Donald Trump.
America First in a letter to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said Kellogg’s hiring, training and promotion practices are designed to achieve a balance based on race and sex that violates the federal law banning workplace bias.
It also criticized marketing campaigns including boxes of Cheez-It crackers featuring drag queen RuPaul and cereal boxes celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month.
“Management has discarded the company’s long-held family friendly marketing approach to politicize and sexualize its products,” the group said.
Kellogg in a statement on Thursday said the company is committed to complying with employment laws and has policies in place prohibiting workplace discrimination.
“At Kellogg, our aspiration is to better reflect the diversity of our consumers and to strengthen our inclusive culture,” the company said.
The EEOC typically investigates companies based on complaints filed by workers, known as charges. But the agency’s five individual commissioners have the power to launch their own probes and file charges if they find that discrimination has occurred.
So-called “commissioner’s charges” are rare, with only a few filed in most years. But, last year commissioners filed 29 charges when a vacancy on the commission created a 2-2 stalemate between Democratic and Republican appointees that hampered the agency’s ability to bring large-scale cases through the normal process.
The U.S. Senate last month confirmed a nominee of Democratic President Joe Biden to a vacancy at the EEOC, handing Democrats a 3-2 majority.
The five current EEOC commissioners did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Many legal experts expect an uptick in legal challenges to corporate diversity programs in the wake of a June U.S. Supreme Court ruling barring race-conscious admissions policies in higher education.
America First in the letter said Kellogg, for example, has said it wants to have “25% underrepresented talent at the management level” by 2025 and runs fellowship programs that are only open to racial minorities.
“Kellogg’s employment practices are unlawfully based on ‘equity,’ which is a euphemism for illegal discrimination,” Reed Rubenstein, a lawyer with the group, wrote in the letter.
America First said it also had sent a letter to Kellogg’s board of directors on Wednesday threatening shareholder litigation if the company maintains the allegedly illegal policies.
The nonprofit on Tuesday sued Target Corp on behalf of an investor, saying the retailer failed to anticipate customer backlash over LGBTQ-themed merchandise that hurt its stock value.
The complaints are part of a campaign conservative legal groups and Republican legislators are waging against corporations that have enacted so-called woke policies on social issues such as race, gender and diversity.
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