A Year of Racial Dialogue & Protests: Tips for Discussing Issues of Race & Other Sensitive Topics in the Workplace 

April 20, 2021 – This was an emotional day across the nation as a guilty verdict came down in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. A jury found Chauvin guilty on all the counts connected to the death of George Floyd; these included unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.

In May of 2020, Floyd’s death sparked protests in Minneapolis and around the world, and shined a light not only on Floyd’s death, but on the deaths of other Black men and women who have died in connection with police interactions in recent years, such as Eric Garner, Philando Castille and Breonna Taylor.  According to a 2019 study, Black men are 2.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by police during their lifetime. 

Naturally, these issues have seeped into the workplace and have challenged employers to consider how they can support their employees, in particular Black employees and employees of color during such challenging times, and how they might foster positive and constructive dialogue around issues of race and other sensitive issues in the workplace. 

Here are some ways employers can encourage and facilitated such dialogue in the workplace:

  • Host listening sessions for your employees. Allow 60-90 minute for employees to openly discuss any feelings or emotions they may be having surrounding current events.  Ideally these are voluntary sessions with no more than 25 people virtually. This investment in your team members can go a long way in creating an open space for employees to discuss uncomfortable topics at work. 
  • If you are unable to hire a professional, ensure that the employee selected to mediate understands mediation practices and can be impartial when facilitating these discussions. 
  • Look for ways to acknowledge employees and ensure they are heard. Oftentimes, people use words like “I understand.” In many cases, unless you have walked a mile in that employees’ shoes, it’s hard to understand their perspective. Try to create a space where the thoughts, opinions and ideas of each employee are heard without judgment.

Experienced Employment Law Attorney, Mediator, Arbitrator, Investigator, Legal and Media Commentator 

Twice-named a U.S. News Best Lawyer in America for employment and labor law, Angela Reddock-Wright is an employment and labor law attorney, mediator, arbitrator, and certified workplace and Title IX investigator (AWI-CH) in Los Angeles, CA. Known as the “Workplace Guru,” Angela is an influencer and leading authority on employment, workplace/HR, Title IX, hazing, and bullying issues.

Angela is a regular legal and media commentator and analyst and has appeared on such media outlets as Good Morning America, Entertainment Tonight, Law and Crime with Brian Ross, Court TV, CNN, ABC News, CBS News, Fox 11 News, KTLA-5, the Black News Channel, Fox Soul – The Black Report, NPR, KPCC, Airtalk-89.3, KJLH Front Page with Dominique DiPrima, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, Forbes.com, Yahoo! Entertainment, People Magazine, Essence Magazine, the Los Angeles Sentinel, LA Focus, Daily Journal, Our Weekly and the Wave Newspapers.

Angela is a member of the panel of distinguished mediators and arbitrators with Judicate West, a California dispute resolution company.  She also owns her own dispute resolution law firm, the Reddock Law Group of Los Angeles, specializing in the mediation, arbitration, and investigation of employment discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and other workplace claims, along with Title IX, sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct conduct cases, along with hazing and bullying cases in K-12 schools, colleges and universities, fraternities and sororities; fire, police and other public safety agencies and departments; and other private and public sector workplaces.

For more information regarding resources for employers, businesses, and employees during this time, connect with her on LinkedIn for new updates, or contact her here. You may also follow her on Instagram.

This communication is not legal advice. It is educational only. For legal advice, consult with an experienced employment law attorney in your state or city.


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