Indeed, these are challenging times for the world, our communities, and the workplace. As businesses grapple with bringing employees back to safe work environments in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, they also must consider the impact of recent protests in the wake of the death of George Perry Floyd, and the growing momentum of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
In the last few weeks, we have seen many businesses take a public stance against these and other issues of social injustice. While businesses are to be applauded for taking such bold steps, this blog provides businesses with six additional considerations for “Looking at the Man in the Mirror” and taking steps to create long-term and sustainable internal changes for diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Businesses – The Public Response
For many businesses, it can be difficult to address issues that may be seen as polarizing and not directly connected to what a business may view as its “bottom line.” Many businesses are apprehensive about the conflict it may bring. Even so, in the last few weeks, many of the nation’s largest companies (Adidas, Amazon, Citigroup Nike, Reebok, Twitter, Uber) have taken active steps to voice their outrage against issues of social injustice and committing to be a part of change through multiple means, including issuing public statements disavowing acts of social injustice; making internal changes at their companies to diversify their boards of directors and teams; and making financial contributions and offering other support resources to social justice organizations.
Businesses – The Internal Response
As businesses consider their public stance on issues of social injustice, they also must look inwardly, and consider what internal changes they must make to create diverse and inclusive environments that stand against issues of discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
Here are six tips that businesses can employ right away:
- Revisit the company’s employee handbook and anti-discrimination and harassment policies to reiterate a ZERO tolerance to discriminatory and harassing conduct. Have employees acknowledge their receipt and understanding of the updated handbook and policies.
- Conduct updated training for employees on preventing discrimination and harassment in the workplace. The training should be conducted by someone who is trained and well-versed in this work and should not be just a “check the box” type of training.
- Establish a strategic diversity and inclusion plan and initiative that has meaning. Appoint a person to oversee diversity and inclusion that is trained in this work and who has power and authority to make and influence change in the company. This person should be at an executive level and/or report to the CEO or an executive of the company.
- Establish performance accountability for meeting diversity and inclusion goals among executives, managers, and supervisors.
- Immediately respond, investigate, and take necessary remedial action on internal complaints of harassment and discrimination. Consider establishing an independent hotline where employees feel comfortable making complaints.
- Create guided and facilitated forums for employees to discuss issues of race and other issues in a productive and meaningful way.
Most importantly, businesses cannot place the burden of solving issues of race in the workplace on Black employees and employees of color. Businesses, along with their management and executive leadership, must take on the great burden of advocating and creating a safe environment for employees who might otherwise feel unheard and disenfranchised.
For more information regarding companies and employee conduct outside of the workplace, please visit Angela Reddock-Wright’s recent segment with KTLA 5 Morning News.
Experienced Employment Law Attorney, Mediator, Arbitrator, Investigator, Legal and Media Commentator
Angela Reddock-Wright is an employment law attorney, mediator, arbitrator, and workplace/Title IX investigator 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. She is a regular legal and media commentator and analyst and has appeared on and provided commentary with such media outlets as Law and Crime with Brian Ross, Court TV, CNN, ABC, CBS, KTLA, KPCC Airtalk-89.3, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, People Magazine, and Essence Magazine.
Angela also is a member of the panel of distinguished mediators and arbitrators with Judicate West, a California company that represents the gold standard in dispute resolution.
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.