Epic Systems president warned employees in diversity, equity and inclusion groups against Black Lives Matter walkout
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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.
In that June 5 email, Dvorak wrote that employees should, as usual, “get permission from your Team Lead in advance if you intend not to be at work for any reason. If you are a team leader, you have heightened responsibilities to seek change in a manner consistent with our culture and policies.”
He also told staffers to “keep in mind that we are a good company.”
“We are on your side opposing racism and brutality,” Dvorak wrote.
He also urged staffers to “remember that many law enforcement officers are good people who put their own lives on the line daily to help others.”
A separate message 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,” he said.
The email that went out to all Epic employees didn’t mention George Floyd or Black Lives Matter, but said broadly that the staff “strongly condemn human and civil rights violations, brutality and violence in all forms.”
He added, “This has been a difficult time, particularly for our Black staff, friends, and family.”
In his statement to the Journal Sentinel, Dvorak stressed that the company condemns any kind of discrimination.
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.
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 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.
Sources said that by Friday, Epic had updated its employee policy to say that computing, campus and staff resources, including “workstations, laptops, email, mobile devices, printers, scanners, network, remote access, the internet, software applications and utilities” should be used for work purposes, not activism.
“These resources should not be used for personal advocacy or political advocacy,” the policy reads.
Contact Mary Spicuzza at (414) 224-2324 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @MSpicuzzaMJS.
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