New York Times Exec Triggers LGBTQ Staffers with 'Insensitive' HR Request

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File

Being a high-level executive in today’s world can be, to say the least, challenging, even when your job is, for all intense purposes, diversity, equity, and inclusion. New York Times vice president of inclusion, strategy, and execution Natalia Villalobos recently found that out the hard way that when addressing a group of the paper’s LGBTQ employees on a Slack message channel geared towards them, one should use other HR-approved channels for addressing their workplace concerns. “TimesOut” is an employee group aimed at the paper of record’s LGBTQ employees, so it might seem like a natural place for those employees to voice concerns related to their workplace environment. Well, not so fast. Recently on the channel, Villalobos seemingly wanted to make sure the employees knew of every resource available to them saying, “I just wanted to share a note about discussing or reporting about your workplace experience to ensure everyone knows about our resources.” Perhaps a bit strange, since this page was specifically for the voicing of concerns. She then listed several HR-related Slack channels and also suggested that employees could speak directly with HR reps.


It was here that Villalobos raised the ire of her LGBTQ staff. She then posted, “Going forward, I want to encourage folxs here to raise concerns or issues via the places above ^^^^ rather than in this ERG channel.” Shouldn’t the fact that she used the term “folx” tell them she is on their side, especially for any “Latinx” LGBT employees? Maybe telling employees not to voice concerns on a channel where they would… voice concerns, was the wrong way to go. Maybe those employees are afraid that their issues may not be given the timely attention they would like in the HR department. But the reaction from some of the employees was one that was well, predictable.

One staffer suspected a note of suppression by the New York Times saying, “I can’t help but feel lately like I’m expected to just shut up and deal with the negativity because it might make some of my coworkers feel uncomfortable if I speak up.” (Side note to Times staffers, now you know how conservatives feel.)


Another stated, “It feels completely surreal and disrespectful to get corporate swag branded with a pride flag at the same time as we’re being instructed not to publicly discuss our experiences as queer people in the workplace.” It was all just too much for Villalobos. The next day, she walked it all back, apologized, and admitted to her triggering of LGBTQ employees saying,

“My post was meant to support the community by offering channels for reporting workplace concerns like discrimination and harassment so that they are received by HR and other partners who can help address them efficiently. It was not meant to reduce sharing, eliminate community support, or tamp down community building.”

She also offered up office hours where employees could themselves relay their concerns directly to her. Perhaps for the New York Times, timing is everything. On the heels of this incident, several writers whose work has appeared in the Times recently sent an open letter to Publisher A.G. Sulzburger criticizing the paper’s coverage of transgender issues. The letter states that the paper has been unwilling to discuss coverage issues with writers they employ or freelancers. Natalia Villalobos may have rethought her choices, but she did not tell these employees not to speak up. Kind of ironic that this is the same community that very often wants to suppress those who disagree with them.



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