To say the world has changed since the start of 2020 would be an understatement. Over the past year-and-a-half, the pandemic, presidential election, events at the US Capitol, George Floyd’s death, and ongoing social unrest have altered the way we interact both in the workplace and at home. It’s started new conversations about issues of racial inequality and the lack of diversity in the workplace.
Last year, we saw numerous big name companies like Nike, Coca-Cola and Starbucks take a stand against hate. You may recall that in June of 2020, Facebook refused to censor a post that contained Donald Trump’s “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” statement. Trump’s original post was in reference to the unrest in Minnesota fueled by George Floyd’s murder at the hands of a police officer.
On June 17th, the NAACP and other organizations started the “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign.” The campaign called on companies across the nation to pause their budget on Facebook and Instagram ads for the entire month of July. More than a thousand companies joined the movement, including major brands like The North Face, Target, and Ben & Jerry’s. On June 26th, the share price of Facebook dropped by 8.3%.
In the tech industry, several companies also took a stand and in 2020 announced goals to diversify their teams by increasing the representation of various minority groups. Payment platform PayPal pledged to put $15 million into efforts to create more robust internal diversity and inclusion programs. Popular fitness app FitBit said it would support research projects to address health conditions that disproportionately affect minorities, including Covid-19.
Last year, General Motors also publicly condemned police brutality, racism, bigotry, discrimination, intolerance, and intimidation. General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra joined nine other corporate and community leaders at Detroit City Hall to declare uncompromising support for equal justice for every American. GM pledged $10 million to support organizations promoting racial justice and commissioned an Inclusion Advisory Board.
While politics, racial injustice and inequality in the workplace have long been sensitive subjects, companies are just now realizing they need to be addressed. Employers can lead these types of discussions but must remember to handle them in a sensitive manner. Here are a few things employers should consider before facilitating conversations about sensitive subjects in the workplace:
- First, recognize that this has been a very emotional and traumatizing year for many employees, not just related to George Floyd’s death and issues of race but also around the pandemic, the political landscape, and other issues.
- Second, do not be afraid to have the conversation. Sometimes employers want to stay away from such topics but it’s like the elephant in the room – if you do not foster conversations around the topic, employees will wonder why.
- Consider facilitated dialogues with a professional facilitator and someone trained in diversity, equity, and inclusion conversations.
- Do not stop here or with one round of dialogue. Consider what types of activities can be a follow-up – more facilitated dialogues, affinity group sessions, guest speakers, book and reading clubs, creating opportunities for employees to volunteer with organizations who work on civic and social justice issues.
- Create and encourage an open door policy where employees can continue to engage on these and other issues.
- Take a look within – is the company’s own mission, policies, and practices fair and equitable?
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, NewsNation, 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.