Five current and former employees at American Express – speaking on condition of anonymity – told FOX Business that the credit card company singles out Black people for promotion in a practice that former employees described as reverse discrimination against White people.
The employees, none of whom were in human resources, did not present internal documents to demonstrate an official policy, but they said they witnessed a worrisome trend that raises questions about racial discrimination in promotion.
One former employee said they quit because the critical race theory trainings and the apparent promotion of employees due to skin color sent the message that White employees could not expect to even be considered for promotion. American Express denied this accusation in a statement.
The ex-employee said efforts to advance in the company were futile.
"I wanted to move up really bad. I did everything I was supposed to do in terms of trainings and extra work. I was on committees, going out of my way to be helpful, being a leader on team calls and national calls," the employee told FOX Business. "I saw the writing on the wall: There’s no way I can get promoted because of the color of my skin."
The workplace culture at American Express changed drastically in the wake of the death of George Floyd, the former employee said. First came politically charged CEO statements about various news events, then employee training sessions focused on "microaggressions" and "unconscious bias," and then the employee recalled seeing racial minorities promoted far more than White people.
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"Before this happened, they would tell you how you would move up. ‘These are the steps you would take,’ et cetera. No longer did that matter because all that matters now is the color of the candidate’s skin," the former employee said. "I would see these emails showing who got promoted. I'd say nine times out of 10, it was a Black person in that role."
"You're told, ‘If you work hard enough and you do the right things, you can move up in this company.’ That's no longer the case at American Express. They're only promoting Black people," the ex-employee said.
"This is reverse discrimination against White people."
American Express categorically denied the accusation.
"American Express has a longstanding commitment to living our company values, which include fostering a diverse and inclusive culture where all colleagues feel welcome and heard and have equal opportunities to thrive regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, age, religion, sexual orientation, and nationality," an American Express spokesperson told FOX Business. "Our diversity, equity, and inclusion programs are singularly about upholding this commitment and are not based on any specific theory, nor are they targeted to a specific group of employees.
"We have a high-achieving culture, and we are proud of our dedicated and highly engaged colleagues," the spokesperson added. "Advancement within our company is based solely on individual business and leadership performance. Any characterization of our company and culture to the contrary is just plain wrong."
Yet other current and former employees backed up the whistleblower.
"I do think that minorities are treated preferentially at American Express," a former employee of mixed-race heritage told FOX Business. This ex-employee said that the company "would not allow a director to make any hiring decisions unless there were enough Black people in the candidate pool."
The mixed-race former employee also described a situation in which his supervisor said "it would be advantageous and important for me to note that I am a minority when I apply for internal promotions."
A current employee also told FOX Business that American Express has singled out Black employees for promotion, "first and foremost." They said the trend began over the past five years under the current CEO, Steve Squeri. "I would even go as far as saying that the probability of a White male getting a senior leadership position is very rare," this current employee said.
The current employee said they had worked at American Express for many years and they "value American Express as a company. But the company that I came to work for is no longer the company that I work for."
The current employee, who is also mixed race, told FOX Business that Amex caters to Black employees, and it only spends "a fraction of time on any other group." They said this practice makes "colleagues that aren't Black feel small or unwelcome. When there's a diversity and inclusion push and it only includes one race, that's very diminishing for other races out there."
Neither of the mixed-race sources is part Black.
A fourth American Express employee said they also got the impression that they would not be considered for promotion because they were White.
"Do I have evidence that states that I would not get promoted? No. But the feeling, the atmosphere, the culture make you feel that way," the employee told FOX Business. "In the hiring process, managers were told they could not hire people because they did not have a diverse enough candidate pool."
This employee said the top brass at Amex began with good intentions after the death of Floyd. "I think they were headed down the right path, but then I think it just went off the rails quickly."
The relentless messaging and CRT trainings created a negative atmosphere, this employee said.
"Every day it was something. I felt like I was being discriminated against," they said. "It's OK to address racial diversity two or three times – we need to be equal. But they brought it up every day.
"You could tell it was one-sided from the top and they were telling us that’s the way we should be thinking," the employee added.
Another former employee told FOX Business that "the vast majority" of the people they'd seen hired and promoted "have been Black." This employee noted that they did not make hiring and promotion decisions, but they confirmed that it seemed as though Amex prioritized Black applicants.
The former employee recalled a staff meeting in which the CEO went over the statistics of American Express employees by race. "We don't really have that much of a diversity issue, I thought," this person said, seeing the numbers. Squeri drew the opposite conclusion, saying, "We have to do better."
Yet the former employee argued that companies like Amex should not work to hit a racial benchmark, such as a certain percentage of employees must be Black. "At that point in time, you’re not hiring the best fit for the position, you’re hiring based on the skin color," the employee said.
The former employee who worked hard to get a promotion expressed regret about having to leave the company but said there was no choice.
"I love American Express. I really do. It’s a great brand, but they're going to destroy the brand," the former employee said.
"They have no business in the social justice ‘woke’ arena. They’re there to make money. That’s the only reason they’re in business. If they go the way of the ‘woke,’ they're going to lose a lot of business."