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Epic Systems’ diversity groups warned about Black Lives Matter walkout

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Epic Systems president warned only employees in diversity, equity and inclusion groups against Black Lives Matter walkout

Mary Spicuzza
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Published 8:00 AM EDT Jun 12, 2020
Epic Systems Corp. in Verona, near Madison, is Wisconsin’s leading software developer. The company, a global leader in software that automates medical records, is among those that are fueling the increase in high-tech jobs in the state.
John Hart / Wisconsin State Journal

The president of Epic Systems has been accused of singling out employees of color working at the Wisconsin-based health records software company in an email warning against plans for a “virtual walkout” aimed at supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

“The approach of threats and demands to disrupt our work and our customers is not consistent with our culture, mission, or policies,” Epic President Carl Dvorak wrote in a June 5 email obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “This approach is not right and we expect you to avoid such behaviors.”

Sources told the Journal Sentinel that Dvorak’s email was sent only to people who were part of internal resource groups for employees of color, including groups like “Black @ Epic” and “People of Color.”

“Unfortunately, it does seem that Carl’s email only went to very specific groups,” an employee wrote in a separate email obtained by the Journal Sentinel. “As I am not a part of any of those groups, nor are many of my white friends, we did not get his email. I don’t know what to say other than I am sorry this happened. I am speechless, and stunned.”

In a statement released Thursday to the Journal Sentinel, Dvorak said company leaders did send a “focused communication” to “organized groups of staff focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion, which include people of color and many staff who are not.”

Part of the communication “responded to discussion related to a staff walkout during work hours,” Dvorak said.

The message’s purpose was also to “affirm support for Black staff during this time of pain and uncertainty,” he said.

Staff members were “concerned that these messages were communicated together, so we followed up to acknowledge that they should have been shared separately,” he said.

A separate message also was sent to the entire staff “to reaffirm our longstanding commitment to equity, social justice, and fair application of the law, and to remind staff about resources available for support.”

Epic is one of the largest software companies for electronic health records. Its software is used in almost all the country’s academic medical centers. It employs about 9,100 people at its massive campus in Verona and more than 10,000 worldwide.

In his statement, Dvorak stressed that the massive company condemns any kind of discrimination.

“Epic strongly condemns human and civil rights violations, brutality, and discrimination in all forms. This has been a difficult time, particularly for our Black staff, friends, and family,” Dvorak said.

The exchange at Epic came after hundreds of Facebook employees protested company executives’ decision not to do anything about inflammatory posts that President Donald Trump had placed on the social media platform. Many of the Facebook employees refused to work and added a message saying that they were out of the office to protest.

Sources said they briefly considered a virtual walkout but quickly decided against it.

Dvorak said the company is continuing to work to “listen and build a workplace that is welcoming for all.”

“We recognize that we need to continue to listen to and better communicate with our staff,” he said.

Contact Mary Spicuzza at (414) 224-2324 or mary.spicuzza@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MSpicuzzaMJS.

This content was originally published here.

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