An HR executive at the New York Times is coming under fire for restricting feedback from LGBTQ+ employees to HR-approved channels. The exec’s seemingly unprompted message came three days after contributors sent an open letter to the paper’s publisher, criticizing past coverage of trans issues.
According to the Slack conversation obtained by The Daily Beast, Natalia Villalobos, vice president of inclusion, strategy, and execution, posted a message to the LGBTQ+ employee Slack channel, TimesOut. “I just wanted to share a note about discussing or reporting about your workplace experience to ensure everyone knows about our resources,” she said.
Villalobos listed the “ask-the-company” Slack channel, manager one-on-ones, and meetings with HR reps as alternatives for sharing feedback. “Going forward, I want to encourage folxs here to raise concerns or issues via the places above ^^^^ rather than in this ERG (employee resource group) channel,” she concluded.
Employees responded directly to Villalobos, expressing frustration with these restrictions. “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,” said one.
Another employee added (in a message that was later pinned to the channel), “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.”
Although Villalobos did not point to any specific instance, the message came only days after a group of eight NYT contributors issued a statement to the paper’s publisher, AG Sulzberger. Their open letter called into question the NYT’s commitment to factual journalism given its record of dubious and inflammatory reporting over trans issues.
That letter specifically addressed the frustrations surrounding HR-approved channels. “Neither your employees nor your freelance contributors have been able to engage you ‘respectfully and through the right channels,’ as Joe Kahn put it in his internal memo,” the contributors wrote. “Staff have tried since at least 2021 to address their concerns on this issue internally. Their diligent efforts have been fruitless.”
In response to the criticisms of her message, Villalobos clarified, “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.”