Target removes Pride Month merchandise after threats to employees, NYC’s new law regulating AI in hiring

Plus, Meta undertakes a final round of layoffs.

Greetings, comms pros! Let’s look at some news stories from this week and see what lessons we can learn from them.

1 . Target pulls back some Pride Month items after threats to workers

Retail giant Target pulled some of its Pride Month-themed merchandise off the shelves following threats to company employees. The move came before June’s Pride Month celebrations have even kicked off.

According to NPR:

The retail giant said in a statement posted on its website Wednesday that it was committed to celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community but was withdrawing some items over threats that were “impacting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being” on the job.

“Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior,” the company said.

Target did not reply to a series of follow-up questions from NPR, such as which items were removed and whether it was increasing security at its stores.

To call it a shame that Target’s employees are facing potential violent retaliation over the simple recognition of a community is a massive understatement. Whatever you think of Target selling the merchandise, threatening employees, most of whom likely had nothing to do with the situation, is simply abhorrent. Target acknowledged the threats in its initial response from an employee-first perspective, and It’ll be interesting to see how the company handles the situation as time goes on. This is a reminder that your frontline workers and other people in your organization are liable for your organization’s purpose, value and culture commitments. When the safety and wellbeing of all stakeholders are in your crisis plan, remember that protecting employees first will create stronger allyship and advocacy in the long run.

2. NYC’s new law seeks to regulate how AI is used in the hiring process

Here at Ragan, we’ve been talking about how AI is going to impact the way we work and communicate in recent months.  Now, New York City has taken a tangible step to define how AI can be utilized at work with a new law.

According to The New York Times:

The city’s law requires companies using A.I. software in hiring to notify candidates that an automated system is being used. It also requires companies to have independent auditors check the technology annually for bias. Candidates can request and be told what data is being collected and analyzed. Companies will be fined for violations.

With AI being some of a Wild West situation in terms of how it can and can’t be used, this is a step in the right direction for employee rights. Employees should know that there’s AI tech being used when they’re applying for jobs–some might not want to apply for a role thinking they’re interacting with a person when it’s just a robot that can’t provide the same level of context and detail about the role. In a recent Ragan story about employee value propositions, one communications leader explained how chatbots in recruiting can sometimes take days to reply to a query—hurting the employee experience journey before it’s truly begun.

We know that AI is going to have (and is already having) big impacts on the comms industry. Whether that’s using things like ChatGPT to create outlines for articles or utilizing AI software to help draft marketing copy that’s then edited by a person, there are uses for this new tech. But when it’s got something to do with our livelihoods themselves, workers and prospective talent alike are better off knowing when, and how, AI is being used.

3. Meta’s latest (and supposedly final) round of layoffs

It hasn’t been the smoothest road at Meta lately, with layoffs and reports of major employee dissatisfaction at how the company is being run. Unfortunately, the layoff train has kept rolling along, with more job cuts at the Facebook parent company.

According to Reuters:

Dozens of employees working in teams such as marketing, site security, enterprise engineering, program management, content strategy and corporate communications took to LinkedIn to announce that they were laid off.

The social media giant also cut employees from its units focused on privacy and integrity, according to the LinkedIn posts.

Meta earlier this year became the first Big Tech company to announce a second round of mass layoffs, after showing more than 11,000 employees the door in the fall. The cuts brought the company’s headcount down to where it stood as of about mid-2021, following a hiring spree that doubled its workforce since 2020.

No one is surprised that Meta has continued to cut jobs — the company has said they’d do as much. What is worth watching is what happens from here. With morale low after such a rough year (following another rough year of a rebrand post-WSJ expose), will the organization ever fully recover or regain a sense of culture? And will Meta go back on its word that this is the final round of cuts? We’ll be watching and reporting back.

4. How about some good news?

Have a great weekend comms all-stars!

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports, a good pint and ’90s trivia night.

COMMENT Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from directly in your inbox.