Founders’ diversity director steps down

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Founders Brewing Co. earlier this year hired Graci Harkema for the newly created position of diversity and inclusion director. Courtesy Terry Johnston

An executive at Founders Brewing Co. has stepped down from from her post.

Graci Harkema resigned from the position of diversity and inclusion director at Founders Brewing Co., according to a post Friday night on her Facebook page, which includes a photo of her resignation letter.

The move comes as Grand Rapids-based Founders is facing a racial discrimination lawsuit from a former Detroit employee — and after an article on a deposition in the case by Detroit Metro Times and the brewery’s subsequent decision to temporarily close its Detroit taproom and pull out of a Detroit beer event.

The nearly page-long public resignation letter is addressed to Founders’ “leadership team.”

The post also includes a photo of Harkema’s face with the following text laid over it: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Founders Brewing Co. co-founders Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers said the company will continue its diversity and inclusion program and plans to have similar leadership in place as soon as possible.

"Graci Harkema had been valuable member of our Founders family during her time with Founders,” the pair said via email. “We were sorry to receive her resignation on Friday. We sincerely appreciate all of her efforts to help move our company forward.”

Harkema joined Founders in January, in the midst of former Detroit employee Tracey Evans’ lawsuit accusing the brewery of racial discrimination, the Business Journal previously reported. The lawsuit reportedly spurred the company to accelerate its five-year plan to hire a diversity and inclusion director to be on its leadership team.

At Founders, Harkema created focus groups with women, people of color and people who identify as LGBTQ+ to find out what needs to change at the brewery, the Business Journal reported. She then instituted mandatory DE&I and unconscious bias training that was deployed for all of the company’s 600 employees.

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