Legal Blog

Corporate Diversity and Inclusion: Guidance for Creating or Updating Your Initiative

In light of the recent death of George Floyd, many organizations are pledging or vocalizing their commitment to diversity. Companies like Peloton, Facebook, WarnerMedia and Netflix have taken stances on eradicating discrimination within their workforce, and many have made donations to show their support for these efforts. In addition to an Equal Employment Opportunity statement and anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation policies, companies should consider creating or updating their diversity and inclusivity policies for legal compliance, alignment with ideals, employee morale and the effect a diverse workforce has shown to have on the bottom line. Below is guidance for creating and developing or updating a diversity and inclusion initiative.

First, identify and understand how a diverse and inclusive workforce can aid in achieving business objectives aligned with the company’s mission and strategy. Once you’ve identified the business goals, you can start to create your initiative.

Next, gather data. Understanding the composition of your workforce is key to understanding how to create and tailor a diversity initiative to your business. Consider the spectrum of legally protected traits: race, gender, religion, disability and age, as well as traits like caregiver responsibilities and veteran status. This information should enable you to identify areas of need or concern. The data that you gather should provide insight into whether certain groups are significantly underrepresented. Employee surveys can also be a helpful tool to understand the impression employees have of the culture. Employee feedback may or may not match the demographic survey results. If it doesn’t, you may need additional communications to understand the disconnect.

Once you’ve identified where your business may be lacking, consider how to address attaining a more diverse workforce. Employers should consider if there are internal barriers stymieing the employment of individuals from different demographic groups. Organizations should evaluate if any policies or practices need to be eliminated or adjusted. You should have a written statement that reflects your diversity and inclusion initiative. In addition, consider the following:

  • Employee Referral Programs: While they can be a great way to obtain excellent candidates, make sure that they are not exacerbating a workforce of similar demographics.
  • Training on Subconscious Bias: If there is one department that is significantly underrepresented, it may be necessary to train the decision-makers on subconscious bias.
  • Company Culture: Apparent or obvious preference for certain racial norms, religious beliefs, or behavior typically associated with one gender may dissuade more diverse candidates from applying to or staying with an organization.
  • Social Media Policy: Ensuring employees are acting professionally and fairly at work is one thing, but if you’re allowing employees to post inflammatory comments without consequence on their social media accounts it may be creating an unwelcome atmosphere for diverse candidates.
  • Opportunities for Employees to Connect: Employees may be ignorant or unaware about individuals with different backgrounds. Virtual breakrooms, employee spotlights and mentorship programs assist with allowing employees to better understand one another to create a more inclusive culture.

After ascertaining what policies and steps you are going to take to implement a diversity and inclusion initiative, it’s imperative that you get buy-in from management. Company culture starts from the top so it’s important to have company executives fully informed of the initiative and involved in implementation. In addition, policies are only worthwhile when they are followed, so management should be held accountable for adherence.

Finally, make sure you are clearly communicating with employees about the company commitment to a diverse and inclusive workforce and what steps the business is taking in implementing one. Also, create a way for employees to provide feedback. You are always free to reject ideas, but allowing employees a voice helps with participation as well as bettering the initiative with time.

ABOUT KATHARINE BATISTA

kbatista@offitkurman.com | 267.338.1319

Ms. Batista is a Labor & Employment attorney that assists her clients when deciding issues like If my employee has exhausted her FMLA leave and remains out, am I required to hold her position open? Can I terminate my employee for testing positive for marijuana? Will this non-compete agreement be enforced? She helps her clients answer these and similar questions, and vigorously defends their decisions. She represents businesses, such as restaurants, hotels, banks, retailers and health care providers, in the spectrum of employment and labor claims. Specifically, Ms. Batista successfully defends employers against claims of discrimination and harassment, retaliation, wrongful terminations, and wage and hour violations. An employee’s post-separation conduct often requires legal advice and action too. Ms. Batista commonly represents her clients in bringing actions for breach of restrictive covenants and contractual interference, as well as defends them against such claims. Employment and labor law is ever-changing. Employers need to feel secure in how they manage their employees so they can focus on their business. Ms. Batista affords her clients that security.

 

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