INTERNATIONAL: Coke overhauls employee comms after race case

GEORGIA: Coca-Cola has been forced to overhaul its employee relations strategy as part of the settlement deal of a racial discrimination suit, which saw the company pay out pounds 137m.

A seven-member watchdog group is to be appointed jointly by the company and the plaintiffs' lawyers. In addition, Coke will establish a freephone line for complaints, with an ombudsman to investigate calls.

The suit claimed that black employees who worked for the company between 22 April 1995 and 14 June this year were subject to pay and promotional discrimination.

'This lawsuit told us that what we thought we had been doing well, we weren't doing well enough,' said Robert Baskin, associate vice-president and director of corporate media relations.'It has demonstrated that the best communications are frequent and transparent.'

Coke is required to pay pounds 31m in adjusted salaries and another pounds 26m to facilitate internal changes. Coke will give pounds 36m to its foundation for community initiatives.

Employee communications surrounding the settlement is an ongoing challenge for the internal PR team of about 35.

Edited by Holly Williams.

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