Cyrus Mehri Speaks Out on the NFL, Coca-Cola
and Real Job Competition
Cyrus Mehri, a partner in the law firm of Mehri and Skalet, has represented
plaintiffs in the class-action discrimination lawsuits against The Coca-Cola Co. and Texaco.
Q. What is a diverse candidate slate?
Mehri: Our definition of a diverse
candidate slate is to have a slate of
diverse candidates who are interviewed in person for a job opening. I would envision any company interviewing at least five people. For example, you could say
you have 100 résumés. You phone
20 of them and five come in for
an in-person interview. You will
then break those down to one or
two finalists. We are saying the
five coming in should be diverse.
If you can’t find a viable female or
minority candidate for the in-person round, you have not
searched enough. You need to go
out and make a greater effort.
date slate. After an in-depth study
and review, they adopted the
Rooney Rule that requires that they
now interview at least one minority
for each head-coach position. In
a matter of a couple of years, we
went from two black head
coaches to seven head coaches in
2006. We could have said in
2002, “You must have seven
coaches,” but we would still be
at two. By asking for an
improved process, it improved
the outcomes. It truly changed
the mindset and the culture of
the NFL. Now they use a
for every position, including the
commissioner and the 32 clubs.
Q. How does a diverse candidate slate
limit discrimination and wrongdoing?
Mehri: It creates fair competition. If
you are across the table from us, we
are going to advocate for a diverse
candidate slate. And so far everyone I’ve been across the table from
has agreed to it as a positive way to
go. It levels the playing field and it
gets females and minorities in the
door so they can show what they
have to offer. What we are usually
up against typically is the “
tap-on-the-shoulder-system” for advancement. The problems with that system are, one, there is no transparency, and two, favoritism comes
into play. It’s usually who you
know instead of who is the best
candidate for the job.
BY SAKINA SPRUELL
Q. What success have you witnessed
with this process?
Mehri: The first time it was rolled
out was when we came up with it in
the Coca-Cola settlement in 2001.
It took them a year or two to get it
up and running properly, but once
they got it going, it had a real
demonstrative impact over time in
One of the most visible success
stories is the success at the NFL.
Three or four years ago, Johnnie
Cochran and I issued a report and
we highlighted the double standard
in the NFL hiring practices. The
solution was to use a diverse candi-
diversity in corporate America?
Mehri: A lot goes along with it to
make it a success. So it’s not a
panacea on its own. But it is a
tremendous reform to which to give
the tools to make that happen. This
gave the NFL and Coca-Cola the
tools to move down the field. If any
company wants to really improve
diversity, it would be reckless not to
use this tool.
At every meaningful position in
corporate America, an effort
should be made to get a diverse
pool of candidates. They should
build up the pipeline and look to
external candidates. Otherwise,
they don’t know if they got the
best if they are excluding key people. As we move toward a global
marketplace, it’s inexcusable not to
have a diverse candidate slate. And
that’s what every company should
stand for—fair competition. DI