Diversity In Corporate America

Ways To Combat Discrimination In The Workplace

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Ms. Morgan Kokaram and Atty. Nouvelle Gonzalo

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Morgan Kokaram is a pre-law and public relations student at the University of Florida. Morgan writes and curates posts for the firm’s multiple social media platforms, as well as tracks social media analytics. Her work at the firm also includes community outreach, event planning, and team building. Morgan also assists with document proofreading and legal research.

We have all been shaken physically and emotionally to some degree by the events that took place this year. However, in the face of adversity, we must practice resilience. If anything has been made evident from 2020, aside from wearing a mask to stop the spread of COVID-19, it is that we all need to do more; more to help our peers, coworkers, and our loved ones.

In the wake of the George Floyd protests and marches for Breonna Taylor and many others, we see people are demanding to be heard when it comes to their civil rights and liberties. The question becomes, how does that translate to corporate America? In the workplace, we can start doing more by tackling discrimination and embracing diversity The question is, how, and where to begin.

Company Policy Solutions To Foster Diversity In the Workplace

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has listed several regulations towards creating policy and practicing solutions for diversity and combating discrimination in the corporate American workplace. These regulations also include the EEOC’s official definition of legal policy and practices that companies must legally follow. There are different definitions depending on the type of discrimination being combated including, but not limited to, the “race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information” (EEOC) of a person

In this article, we will discuss racial discrimination & employment policies and practices. As defined by the EEOC, Racial discrimination involves treating an applicant or employee unfavorably because he/she is of a certain race or because one’s personal characteristics associated with race such as, but not limited to certain facial features, hair texture, or skin color. Color Discrimination involves treating anyone unfavorably based on the color of their skin complexion.

Policy Solution:

Having a strong equal employment opportunity (EEO) policy developed that is embraced by the company’s CEO and other top executives is a great place to start. Be sure to train both employees and managers on the contents of that EEO policy. Once this training has been provided for the team, most importantly, ensure the objectives that form the contents of that policy are enforced and that company managers held accountable. You can find examples of these policies by visiting the EEOC website or doing additional research.

Are there solutions for corporate law spaces?

Yes! There are a wide variety of solutions! For these solutions to work, it is important to take an approach that involves focusing on specific areas:

1) Creating an internal environment for diversity and inclusion.

2) Building your firm’s brand and reputation for diversity and inclusion.

3) Establishing both external and internal diversity of pipeline resources.

4) Promoting and developing diverse legal professionals.

Creating An Internal Environment For Diversity

Creating a task force or diversity committee consisting of law department managers or other diverse legal professionals is a great first step. The objective of this task force should be to determine the best practices on how to create and execute diversity strategies. A diversity policy statement is important for the task force to implement. This policy can either be unique to a department or be a broader company policy. Make sure to include the definition of diversity and inclusion, the importance of diversity from a business standpoint, the strategies being followed to foster diversity and inclusion, the policy of the department to obtain outside counsel, and how the inclusion of diversity will be measured in this process.

Diversity education and training are valuable; everyone needs to be reading from the same playbook. Most companies provide some form of diversity education through their Human Resources (HR) department. Even if your education is being provided in another manner, this training should ultimately stress the importance of self-awareness and inclusion. The efforts to advance diversity must not be viewed as extracurricular, but as necessary, make sure to communicate this with your team!

Building a Brand Reputation For Diversity and Inclusion

Once a commitment to diversity is established, it’s time to build up the firm/company’s reputation. A powerful message must be sent out to reflect the company or law department’s commitment to diversity and their awareness of its importance. This visibility can be done through partnerships, sponsorships, recognition, and internships. Recognition can be achieved by applying for external awards that recognize your company and teams’ efforts.

Establishing Diversity Pipelines

Creating a database of important contacts such as diversity leaders, and diverse attorneys are essential. This database helps to better ensure and establish internal and external diversity. When positions open at your firm, work hard to make sure the candidates chosen are not only high-quality but have a background in diverse legal professions. Advertise for open positions in areas that are likely to attract diverse candidates. Do not allow interviews of potential candidates until your recruiters are properly slated with diverse individuals.

Growing this established pipeline requires getting involved in the effort of creating more qualified diverse candidates. Many companies use satisfaction surveys to evaluate the general performance of their firm. On these surveys, be sure to include questions on diversity that can help you assist in growing your pool of diverse and professional candidates.

Developing Diverse Legal Professionals

It is critical that efforts are made to assist the department’s diverse employees in having an opportunity to succeed. In this effort to build diversity and inclusion in a law department, obstacles that women face should not be overlooked.

One obvious way of communicating diversity and inclusion is by building an internal legal diversity website; the value of this tool should not be overlooked. This website can act as a source of key information, including the department’s policies on diversity and a schedule of diversity events.

Keep diversity at the forefront of everyone’s mind at meetings where discussions and evaluations occur regarding promotions. If the outcome from this process does not achieve a diverse result, step back, identify obstacles, and see how changes can be made. Posters on policies are one thing, but actions speak volumes. Employees pay attention to who is hired, promoted, and terminated.

In conclusion, it has been made abundantly clear that combating discrimination is more prevalent than ever. This requires more than a simple discussion. Policies must not only be implemented but enforced greatly. Make sure all of your policies align with EEOC guidelines.

For more information on corporate compliance in the workplace, contact us today at ngonzalo@gonzalolaw.com or via phone at 216–527–7777.

Citations

[1] https://www.eeoc.gov/

https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=a605868f-91c0-43b9-bc90-5a9adab23de5

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/06/the-legacy-of-george-floyd-here-s-how-business-can-address-inequality-and-promote-justice/

https://www.laboremploymentreport.com/2020/06/15/the-important-role-employers-play-in-addressing-racism-in-light-of-the-george-floyd-tragedy/

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/corporate-social-responsibility-age-george-floyd-dan-schawbel/

https://www.employmentlawworldview.com/black-lives-matter-racial-unrest-and-corporate-culture-how-do-employers-respond-us/

https://hbr.org/2020/06/u-s-businesses-must-take-meaningful-action-against-racism

https://www.massmutual.com/static/path/media/files/how-to-build-diversity-and-inclusion-in-the-corporate-legal-team.pdf

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Nouvelle Gonzalo is a U.S. and international corporate lawyer who works with companies across the globe. She is the managing attorney of Gonzalo Law LLC, a U.S. and international corporate law firm with offices in Florida and Ohio. In addition to the active practice of law, she has served as adjunct faculty at the University of Florida Levin College of Law where she has taught international corporate law for several years. She was recognized as a rising star by the national organization, Super Lawyers, in 2019 and 2020. Her practice areas include international corporate law, intellectual property law, and nonprofit law.

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Gonzalo Law LLC is a U.S and international business law firm with offices in Ohio and Florida. Visit our website for more information @ http://gonzalolaw.com.

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