DEIB: Where Do We Begin and How to Make Sure its Legal

okay good morning everyone or good afternoon good evening wherever you are joining us from if you haven’t come on to one of our Lives before my name is Alexandria I am a co-founder and the CEO of the disruptors we are a job board that supports people from underrepresented communities getting matched with companies that they can thrive in I’m going to send it over to my co-founder Jasleen so she can introduce herself yeah so I’m Jasleen I am a career coach and I specialize in coaching women who are in male dominated spaces especially in Tech and I’m at Lake Alexandria said I’m the co-founder of disruptors and we are welcoming Elizabeth today who I’ll let you introduce yourself Elizabeth great thank you Jasleen uh hello I’m Elizabeth Payne madalina I am a senior associate attorney here at Barons wike Leonard where my practice involves a lot of employment law and uh we’re based here in Northern Virginia right outside of Washington DC awesome and so we’re talking about where to get started with Dei today and so a lot of employers get nervous around this where they get started and they think oh my gosh can I ask these questions they don’t know what they don’t know maybe they don’t have an in-house HR department and so a lot of the time where often people start is tracking diversity metrics and so what is it that first of all is it legal to even ask this and what are some other things that employers really need to know if they are going to start because we believe we do need to measure you do need to track that in order to understand where you are now what that representation looks like where you want it to be what some of the gaps are what some of the barriers are but how do you do that and make sure that you are really you know walking that line and and understanding what’s legal and what’s not that is a great question um because and I think a lot of times this is an area where employers will uh maybe go online do some quick Googling and become very discouraged because it seems like there’s a lot of information out there that can be very scary um I would I will start by saying this you know I think when employers are thinking about putting Dei creating Dei programs keeping track as to you know Dei in their workplaces the biggest thing to remember is these are supposed to be goals these are not supposed to be hard targets these are not supposed to be um you know uh definitive numbers that you have to hit that’s where employers will quickly get into trouble but when you’re talking about you know Dei initiatives in general and especially in the hiring aspect um I think that that is where employers should be you know careful about how they are approaching things but still think about this from a very from a holistic approach and what I mean by that is is a lot of employers say if we just make sure that we’re hiring with the EI in mind that solves all of our problems and unfortunately that’s not the case um you know it if you’re hiring and only looking at hiring but you’re not looking at retention and you’re not solving systemic issues that can be in place that may cause employees from different you know um backgrounds from different uh um that fall into different I guess you would say Dei categories then you are actually not solving any of the issues and probably creating more issues in the long run so I would say the first thing is always look at this from a holistic whole company approach and so where would be a good place to start because I mean I would be thinking about you know our our main groups like are you by POC and even in that like being someone who is a person of color you know you get those boxes where it’s like sometimes you don’t fit into a box sometimes it feels exclusive from a legal standpoint is there anything you can’t ask because I even saw um a client the other day was asking about um on the job application they were screening for whether they were the first in their family to go to like to pursue higher education for example um which I could see like the to me that was valid because I could see that they were trying to understand like really expanding their mind around diversity um but for an employee it it’s nerve-wracking and so they feel like why are they asking me this are they allowed to ask me this and so what do employers need to know about what they’re allowed to ask like is there anything that’s off limits I mean I would discourage employers from say from just asking straight off the bat bat like you know what race are you what ethnicity are you what is your you know um what is your sexual orientation I would not ask those questions first of all uh the EEOC really does not like it when employers especially at the hiring stage are just asking these questions unless it is for simply keeping track internally you can’t you should never be using this kind of information for hiring decisions or promotion decisions and you know employment decisions essentially and once you start asking those questions especially at the hiring stage that it can create a specter that employers don’t want to create now that being said I think that the way that the employer you mentioned Jasleen approached this where they asked are you the first person in your family to go to college is assigned to me of an employer who’s thinking outside the box about how can I help bring in people from maybe different backgrounds different life experiences which is oftentimes helps increase and become more inclusive in the Dei Spectrum without asking these prohibited questions so I would say that that is a great approach to take where you’re asking um these kinds of questions that oftentimes can help you see if there’s someone who may have a unique perspective that can also be helpful in their role and in their job by that by providing you know a different kind of um perspective on on the work being done or maybe has a different approach so that is something that you know I think is a is a great way to help identify perhaps these people from different backgrounds more unique backgrounds or more diverse backgrounds yeah and I would say on that note the other thing that I think employers should do is is you know really take a look at your hiring processes and make sure it is not a strict we only want people from traditional you know pathway straight through to a you know top ranked University uh no gaps in employment no Community College because we want the best of the best first of all the best the best doesn’t always come from those top universities candidates not saying they don’t but you know um where you went to school doesn’t always show how you know what kind of skills you have or your potential and and also just thinking about again there are different perspectives that can be very helpful when you bring them into your team and thinking or asking where on my team do we lack in different perspectives so everyone here come from that very traditional mindset you know what are some areas where we could you know for customer facing positions you know or customer facing um programs or products you know think having people coming in from different backgrounds can oftentimes help improve those products make them more customer friendly or more approachable yeah I love that and I think also expanding it from because you know I have a background in HR and so so I’m a fan of tracking like at every step of the process like because you can often see where we where the diversity drops right and so if you’ve got a lot of diversity in your applications but then the first screening a lot of that goes away that’s important but I think for me what for all the employers watching is like really think about the candidates experience and so to that example that I was talking about with are you the first in your family to pursue higher education that might the the validity does at face value is not there and so if it’s not there you’re going to have to do a good job of explaining why you’re asking that question and also being really super clear how it’s being used and that is optional and that you will not be penalized for not answering the question because that’s where people are like well I don’t even want to share this because I feel like I’m gonna you know they’re gonna hold this against me like that’s a valid thing you haven’t built trust with this with this potential employer yet and just in today’s you know world where it comes to data you know a lot of people are very are very careful and rightfully so um I’m in Canada so the Privacy standards are a little bit more stringent here than the us but there are still like you know those kind of things that you have to think about but not just about the law about what is the candidate experience because they’ve already they you feel like they’re treating you like a number or like you’re just a a you know the token person who they’re trying to get into the role um that’s not a good way to start off with Dei either so it’s yes track but do it in a way where people understand and trust your intentions and that’s where I was getting out with even like those boxes is sometimes like you don’t need to like put people in a box necessarily you can ask like here what we hear the um underrepresented groups that we’ve got an eye on these days and if you want you can self-disclose and let us know if you belong to one of these groups yes and and again I I think that is that is really important is making sure it is very voluntary and and also making it very clear we are not using this information for making hiring determinations and never ever using that information for hiring determinations you are always going to select the most qualified applicant whoever that is and but it should never be made based off of this person fits this DVI box or this box or this box that has unintended consequences on everyone who’s applying not just if you’re an underrepresented group but it makes it almost feel like the process isn’t fair and I think that’s a common misconception we’re trying to squash in or disrupt if I will um is that increasing diversity is lowering the bar on Talent right like that is the misconception it’s not true it’s just understanding where biases might be coming into play and screening out equally talented if not more talented individuals who belong to these groups but I think that that brings points to what we’re going to be talking about next week is inclusive hiring practices right and really thinking about that from the perspective of how do we ensure that we have inclusive hiring practices from the word go and like what we’re talking about right here really just sharing like yeah we’re going to ask these things voluntary here’s what we’re using it for and that transparency and that upfrontness and people maybe have the thought of like of course that that’s just assumed or like I don’t need to say you always need to say it you always need to say it right and don’t leave room for assumptions there’s this it’s it especially when you’re at that stage because in the beginning it’s really about trust building right and so be transparent yeah for sure so one of the things that we also want to talk about right so you have what are you doing for tracking and like creating those initiatives and all those pieces but there’s other things that are being done at like more of a state and not so much Federal level right now like we have anti-discrimination laws obviously but what do you think are some of the more interesting legal routes that states and other like even counties are maybe taking uh that are increasing d-e-i-n-b that is a great question because we’ve seen a you know one thing I always tell clients is is especially when they’re creating you know Dei initiatives or working on on creating policies and such is every state has their own laws that’s why it’s always better to have an employment attorney you can work with on these kinds of initiatives from the get-go so they can tell you hey this is okay or why don’t we rephrase it in this way or or you know here’s something that we should consider um because states are definitely um not all states but a lot of States including Colorado are pushing some really great new legislation uh that have been uh enacted that helps create more Equity more diversity or at least encourage those in the workplace um one of which being Colorado has this and and this has been something that a lot of employment lawyers across the country have paid a lot of attention to is the salary disclosure requirements so on any um job posting being made by a Colorado employer or which would be for a job that is open to Colorado employees remotely or um physically it you must or the employer needs to disclose what the salary range is so minimum maximum and also the benefits that would be included and this helps everyone go in with applying knowing like here’s the range and also helps ensure that there is more pay Equity that’s why these laws are being put into place so that way everyone knows this is the range and that you don’t have the uh the unequal pay for equal work issue that oftentimes pops up it um especially with people who identify as women so that is one thing another area that is doing the same kind of pay Equity advancing is the uh states are prohibiting employers from asking about salary history at certain stages of the hiring process again meant to keep it from uh keep people who are being perhaps uh paid in a disparate way um being continued to be paid into disability um Colorado also is one of the states that uh has passed what’s called ban the Box laws Virginia also has a law like this in place and and what this is is uh if you have or employers are not allowed to ask about criminal convictions except for some ex some very specific circumstances um during the hiring process now this does apply to I think employers with 13 or more employees in Colorado but what this does is again it helps people who have diverse backgrounds uh who have a you know different experiences helps uh prevent people from being shut out from jobs that they’re otherwise qualified for just on the basis that once upon a time they made a mistake uh it also you know as a lawyer I will say goes hand in hand with the idea that people can be rehabilitated in our justice system which is supposed to be the point of the way we do the way we do things although doesn’t always end up that way um yeah I love that because it’s really looking at that Equity piece of yeah because I mean being in HR that’s usually the the first question that’s asked when you’re hiring a candidate is what are your salary expectations or what are your and so when I’m coaching people I’m really trying to get them to not disclose what their pay was not disclose what their expectations are but really find out what is the range what is the budget because you don’t want to just have that inequity perpetuated because you have experienced that up until this point in your life and so how do we start breaking and disrupting you know the pay transparency and and I love that more and more states are really the law is catching up to that I also really like it obviously like I’m biased right I live in Colorado I think it’s great that we have banned the box I think it’s great that we require the salary uh California and New York are also doing the salary requirements now so I think three major States like that that are doing it we’re going to start to see a trickle effect which I’m super super excited about but also talking about if you don’t live in a state in which that’s true arming yourself with the knowledge about what salary ranges are in your area or the area of the job that you’re applying in for the title and the experience that you’re bringing and even if the job description doesn’t say it’s up for negotiation it’s always up for negotiation so entering into that is enculturated as a female and other pieces we are less likely Studies have shown to negotiate for salary unless that’s notated there’s been a bunch of studies that show if that’s in the job description women negotiate at the same rate as male identifying people do but just know you can try and negotiate it right and if they do have a salary range then the negotiation is within the salary range or there could be other benefits but Empower yourself with the knowledge of what it is that you’re asking for and being clear about that going into the negotiation yeah and so where on that note where can employers start to really understand what are the laws in their state when it comes to pay Equity or anything like I know I’m in Canada and so in my Province I would go to the employment standards website of my Province and make sure because every province is different every state is different and so where do people start with like really just understanding am I doing everything above board yeah I mean that is a great question as as especially in today’s world where you know it used to be everyone went to the same office in the same place everyone so everyone was working in the same state and there’s uh you know you only had to really worry about your state maybe the neighboring states laws as an employer and nowadays with remote work with our very connected Society um a lot of employers have employees all across the nation or even across the world and so I would say first is is uh I recommend talking to an employment lawyer even if it’s just just a hey I want to make sure we are doing what we need to do that we’re in compliance here are the states we have employees in or offices in and can you just give me a quick summary of what I need to do having that relationship is important because it can sometimes get confusing or you can sometimes even get state laws where one says this thing one says this thing and they don’t line up very well and so it’s a question that then well how do I comply with both state laws when they don’t work very well together um so I would say that’s the first thing and the other thing is is uh you know if you want to get a better understanding every state will oftentimes have a Department of Labor uh Department of Labor of industry or Labor and Industry or a Civil Rights Commission that you can go to and kind of get a feel for some of the general uh employment laws that have been put into place but I would definitely recommend having an employment lawyer or having someone who you can who is you know experienced in this area who can help decipher these laws that can be very helpful especially in just laying the foundation which a strong Foundation is is the best thing to have awesome growing that just a little bit because like obviously the suggestion is go get a lawyer right and that’s great advice but a lot of people they get worried about it even thinking about going to get a lawyer and it starts to feel really stressful and like oh well if I have to go get a lawyer then I don’t want to do it what are three first steps that employers can take to start thinking about their Dei initiatives that would allow them to expand to the point where they start to feel comfortable okay I should go talk to a lawyer now you know that is a great great question because I think a lot of times people do think when you get a lawyer involved well now you’ve made it a whole big thing or lawyers just make things complicated and so I would say first of all lawyers can be like doctors you can see them when you’re sick but you can also see them to make sure that you are taking steps to be healthy and prevent getting sick and so just because you’re talking to a lawyer doesn’t mean that you’re that something has gone wrong or that it is going to blow things up into something bigger it can actually be something that is very good at helping to prevent now that being said I know that resources uh can be tight um and that sometimes businesses may just want to be in the beginning stages and and not yet getting involved with talking to an employment lawyer about creating initiatives and I would say that the best thing to do is to try to get a general understanding of what the state laws are or even talking to other companies that you know that have done these kinds of initiatives in the same area again understanding that they may not be able to give legal advice um also you know talking to people in the Dei sphere who may be able to connect you with either legal professionals or provide more insight as to some of the roadblocks that they have run into such as both of you could be very helpful too yeah I was just gonna say that little plug for for disruptors because that’s really what we’re trying to do we’re trying to connect everyone with the resources they need in a timely fashion at the phase that they’re at because it can be really overwhelming to kind of look at the system as a whole and be like where do I even start because if I you know the hours you know we’re going to really be building it up if we’re going through every single process from recruitment to onboarding to Promotions um with an employment lawyer especially if you’re a small business a startup that doesn’t have a lot of cash flow and so it can be helpful to kind of reach out to your community and just understand okay where is the biggest risk for me where’s the biggest opportunity what is more most aligned to my business strategy my business goals and and and really you know get clear on that strategy and then bring in the resources that that you need so I love that I love that and so let’s switch gears oh sorry did you have okay I just wanted to switch gears here to accommodations so for employers who have people with disabilities in their workplace um I’m really interested in this one because I I recently had a client who their employer is struggling to provide the accommodations that she needs and so what do the employers really need to know about this about what they’re allowed to ask because you know some of these questions can get really invasive um I know here in Canada you know we have specific laws and and you know protections around people with disabilities and so I would always advise people from an HR point of view um you know we just need to know what we need to know and then make the accommodations but we don’t always see that happening and so what is your advice to employers around how to navigate accommodations another really great question because this is something that you know uh I hear all the time and you know while I can’t give legal advice on a specific situation I think that in general um you know the first thing I would say to employers is there are so many ways that you can be more inclusive and welcoming to people with disabilities or people who may not qualify with as what the Ada would consider to be disabled in the employment context but just by by looking at the way that your your workplace is set up and just making sure it’s a a place that allows work to be done in a range of ways and in a in a way so that people who may work better in one space have the ability to find that space or work within that space now from the disability and Ada aspect I would say you know the first thing is every situation is is going to be unique this is a case-by-case analysis and and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to make yourself or or accommodate all disabilities because different disabilities different positions different people are going to require different things even if you’re looking at you know someone who is neurodivergent and requesting reasonable accommodations um just because they need this accommodation doesn’t mean every other person who falls under the neurodivergent Spectrum will need that or benefit from that kind of accommodation so what I would tell uh you know an employer is you know first of all don’t play doctor you are not a medical professional um employers have the ability to get documentation from the treating medical provider to confirm that there is this diagnosis is there and that the um this is the accommodation being suggested and why essentially but don’t start playing doctor uh don’t you know uh start you know Googling well what else can I what what does this condition really entail or anything leave the medical medicine to the medical professionals um the other thing is is the Ada requires the interactive process in the states here so I tell people interactive be interactive work with your employee talk to them if the accommodation that they’re requesting is not reasonable as the Ada defines it meaning it’s something that the employer can’t Institute without creating an undue hardship then work with the employee on finding a reasonable alternative those are things that can help create trust and help also help the employer build that relationship uh you know Shore up an existing relationship but also it it it allows an employer to really um engage with with that employee and find a mutually agreeable solution when that’s possible the other thing I would caution employers on is never assuming someone is or is not disabled uh and and by that I mean let them if an employee has a disability that needs an accommodation they will come to you um there’s there’s of course nuances to this but uh in general let them come to you and tell you that they need an accommodation they have a disability um and and one area where you see this a lot would be pregnancy people go oh my employee is pregnant they must need an accommodation because they’re pregnant no you cannot assume that your pregnant employee is now has a disability or needs these accommodations let them come to you and tell you what they need yeah unless there’s like a safety reason I know I used to work at um I used to work in oil and gas so I worked at a Refinery and so at there were places on site that you could not go if you were pregnant just from a safety perspective but yes don’t be the doctor don’t make assumptions and I and I think from an HR point of view what I notice is why a lot of people fail to make accommodations when they can easily do so is because they’re afraid of setting a precedent they’re afraid of saying okay now I’ve allowed this employee to work remotely because of their disability and everyone else is going to be asking for the same and so I think that’s where it’s really important to be clear in your policies around okay what are the protected disabilities that you are recognizing um how what is the process or even not you don’t even have to get specific into what those are but that there’s a process that you’re getting whether you have in-house Health Department they’re going to assess what what those accommodations are and don’t dig into anything else other than what the professionals are telling you what those accommodations are that need to be met you don’t need to know why you don’t need to know um you know like the whole history the whole medical history and I know like from experience from an HR point of view my leaders would often get very frustrated with this because they wanted to to know more because they were afraid of making a mistake and they were and so my advice to to those people who are are afraid I mean they’re coming from good intentions um or they’re just afraid of like how that’s going to impact the rest of the staff is to really just be clear that you’re making accommodations from a medical perspective the details of it are none of anybody’s business and and we’re protecting the rights and the privacy of this individual and we are an inclusive work environment and that’s it um and so this is where I really like to help people understand the difference because it’s diversity equity and inclusion I don’t like using the word equality at all anymore because and I think I mentioned this in one of our Lives before because Equity is looking at the whole system right because some people are going to have advantages and disadvantages in that system equality is when we’re trying to treat everyone exactly the same and so we’re not all the same and so you need to treat people in terms of what they need to thrive in the workplace so it’s a shift from is this fair to what do all the employees need in in my organization to thrive because even when it comes to employee development when it comes to how you’re motivating people that’s going to look different for everyone anyways so the more you get into this mindset the more you’re going to be able to unleash the the potential of your of your Workforce so yeah yes yeah yes and and flexibility is so important I think the last almost three years I it really shows why employers need to be flexible they need to be flexible in how it you know not just from the the uh perspective of the pandemic but but just in general being flexible is better and it helps create and Foster strong relationships with your employees and equity in your Workforce and and I think that you know having clear policies on when is remote worker allowed or is it allowed on how to request an accommodation under the Ada or or whatever the the Canadian version of that for for uh people in Canada um that those are very important and then following those processes following those policies and and the other thing is and I think you mentioned this Jasleen that’s very important is protecting your employees policies or a privacy do not of course tell other colleagues if there are other employees if they’re going well why does so and so get to work from home you do not need to say anything other than that was a decision that we have reached with them and you know we appreciate your understanding you do not need to go telling them well that they have a you know they have an accommodation for this they have a disability and that’s none of their business unless employee wants to share because I think often the employee wants to and needs to share to be able to get that accommodation from everyone else in the team and so like even this case that I’m working with now it’s like it’s not just the actually the team is more inclusive than the higher up leaders because they’re more worried about the Optics and like oh is everyone going to be asking for these accommodations now but I think have that open conversation and I think this really comes down to like one of the metrics we want to track in terms of your progress on Dei as an organization is psychological safety because if you have psychological safety in your organization your employees are going to be okay with sharing more they’re going to be okay with you sharing more and the more transparency and the more not just transparency in your policies but in in everything in terms of how you manage performance the more everyone is just going to be like oh okay that makes sense to me or okay that’s what I have to do to get into that sort of um to to be you know get that benefit as well and and and then it’s just then it’s not seen as this like you know on because you wanna You Wanna Be fostering um you know a culture of fairness and so it’s a it’s a fine line though you don’t you don’t if you don’t have uh if you’re if you’re employed is not okay with saying okay this is a medical accommodation then that’s probably a sign that you have more work to do in terms of um other factors when it comes to Dei yeah and I would just say it should always be the employee’s Choice as to what they share or don’t share I mean and and you know I think psychological safety that is a great thing to bring up I think uh that is why it is important to both walk the walk and talk the talk um you know Dei is an ongoing process it is not a one-time thing it is not a one-time fix and you know oftentimes I see an area where people can run into problems is when the policy says one thing but the reality is something very different that’s not exactly what the employer is doing that can create legal issues that can also create just a distrust in the workplace and a a lack of you know employees just don’t feel safe they feel like the rug is being pulled out from under them and why should they disclose anything that they do not need to or share anything or even um you know why stick around in a place that is playing games so I think that is a very good point absolutely and Dr carrion here has made a comment that psychological safety is a unicorn in the workplace for many organizations so she will be joining us on another live I forget Alexander in December and so maybe that’s something we can we can talk about with her yeah for sure and I agree with her unfortunately that is a reality in a lot of organizations and I think there’s a lot of reasons for why psychological safety becomes this unicorn a mysterious thing and to bring that into some ways that you can make that more achievable in your organization if you prioritize human first right like I want to approach my leadership and the way we do benefits and hiring and all of these things if you approach it from a perspective if I’m putting the human being first right you are hiring human beings not human doings and I know that that is something that is often forgot about in the tech space but we’re not computers and so if you think about it from oh I’m a human what would I need in this moment if this was true for me what would I need and I think that can help people answer a lot of their own questions about how would they approach this why would they want to approach it this way and then getting other perspectives like okay this is my opinion what would somebody else need or want yeah and I think the thing I encourage the most is ask your people don’t make assumptions just ask the question right if you were to have your best life working here what would that look like and if you don’t have psychological safety you’re not going to get super great answers but you have to show up in order to build that trust and another caveat that I want to put in there even if you’re doing all the right things you are creating all the psychological safety you have humans who have been traumatized by other workplaces they may not be ready for it they may not trust that it’s true yet that doesn’t mean that you stop doing it yeah and I love what you’re saying there about like asking people like how do they what are their needs because in the tech industry if we get good at this and understanding the differences in people and how their minds work and and what their pain points are like what is possible in terms of what you can do with your whatever your products are whatever your um you know whatever it is you’re trying to create in your organization whatever you’re trying to innovate with so I think that’s where it’s again we got to stop seeing Dei as this separate check-in-the-box exercise it’s something that once it becomes part of who you are as a leader and part of like embedded within the the processes and systems of your organization like that’s when you’re going to find just solutions that you never would have got to without without really tapping into the diversity um yes and I would just add because I think Alexandria you made this great point that there are employees who have prior workplace trauma and they are not going to be as willing to share and so you that is important for employers to remember the fact that as you both have said a number of times this is not you know every employee is going to respond differently um and so creating as many avenues for employees to share or give feedback is also important because not every employee is going to want to respond to the anonymous survey or be as forthcoming on the anonymous survey because uh you will always have people who in the back of their minds are saying and sometimes rightfully so well how Anonymous is this really um and you also will there are some people who think who would just prefer to communicate verbally some who prefer to communicate in a one-on-one situation um and then there are some who like the anonymous uh survey as a way to share or the anonymous suggestion box as a way to share um so I think that that is important too yes talking to your people is key and and giving them as many Avenues to share in a way that works for them and their experiences absolutely and I want to point out Dr carrianne made another comment about you can ask the questions but some leaders aren’t ready to hear the answers and that is 100 True which is why we talked about you gotta start with you right you got to start with your why and your self-awareness to get started here because if you don’t have some clarity and you don’t check yourself and your own response and bias and like own ego you’re not going to be ready for that and then you’re going to create distrust and you’re going to discourage people from sharing with you if your reaction to their response is negative there’s information in all of it right like whether it’s true or it’s not true like everything’s made up right so what can I take from this that’s beneficial and do I want to do something about it and taking your own agency and responsibility on yourself for how you respond as a leader because that’s where it’s got to start absolutely so I want to talk a little bit about we’ve talked about you know some easier ways to get started what are some pitfalls that you really want to highlight that employers stay away from that are really big red flags or zones that they they do not want to get into when implementing diversity equity and inclusion that’s that’s a great question um um and I think you know the number one thing is quotas hard targets um say those are the quickest way to get yourself into into trouble when it comes to Dei um and I know a lot of employers think well well that’s but how else do I you know make sure I’m actually hitting these goals because goals are soft and and the reality is is that this goes back to flexibility you need to be flexible and understand that you know this is a process and you still want to get the best people who are qualified for the job you want to hire the best candidates you want to retain the best employees but you want to make sure that you’re doing it in a way that Fosters Dei and so if you’re just looking at the numbers if you’re just saying okay I’ve hired from this box and this box and this box that first of all is illegal in the U.S um in except for very rare situations uh second of all it doesn’t actually solve the problem of Dei and and making sure that your workplace as a whole is fostering a diverse Equitable and inclusive environment because and I I think we’ve mentioned this before if you can’t retain employees there’s an issue if you are having if uh employee satisfaction or if there’s big pain equities across different uh areas of that that where there the differences can be broken down by uh gender or race there’s a problem so just going with if I hit these numbers and if I hire or promote x amount of people in this group and x amount in this group I have solved all my problems is not the case you have put a Band-Aid over a very deep wound and you will soon find yourself back in the beginning of the Dei process as well as possibly facing some issues with the EOC which you don’t want so uh so that I I’m curious because actually that’s news to me I did not realize in the U.S setting a Target so if you say Okay I want to recruit um so let’s say it’s at entry level and you’re going out to universities and you’re saying okay I want to make sure that at least 30 percent of the people we hire of of new grads are women that’s illegal to do that generally yes yes because then you are making a decision solely based on gender identity or um gender identity and um that is not permitted because that would be because I guess I guess let me let me walk through this a bit because I know I’m working in HR we we used to set targets and so it was more to kind of like look at okay like how are we because if we didn’t set targets often we wouldn’t do the extra work to to expand the talent pool or understand where the gaps were in our process um and so we’re still like we still have that meritocracy there we still have like that very clear like these are the bona fide occupational requirements these are the skills we’re looking for these are the grades we’re looking for these are and so if we’re still like doing it in a fair way where we’re just simply saying but we want to make sure at least 30 percent are women is that in itself illegal or is it only if you’re saying okay I’m just going to pick these 30 percent women over here and and and and not even look at their qualifications so if the hiring decision in the end is hinging on or a a factor is is this person do they identify as a woman or a man or as non-binary um then that would be illegal because then you are making a hiring determination based on a protected class um if you are setting soft goals where in the end you are saying I our goal is to hire uh this year bring in 30 of our new hires will be people who identify as women um then that is that is permissible because that is a a goal it is not a hard target it is not a you must get this number and again the the the thing you do not want to do is create the Specter where the decision is being made based off of absolutely a projected classes and so in those scenarios I was thinking of it wasn’t like a hard target in the sense that okay we didn’t get what we wanted so now let’s lower the bar that wouldn’t happen then we would look at it and say okay we didn’t get 30 of people who identify as you know not a man um and then why is that why is that and what can we do next time to make sure we are hitting that goal but not a hard target in the sense that now we are lowering the bar and saying okay even though you don’t have this requirement we’re going to hire you yes and I think that is a great way to also incorporate and make sure that you’re again taking the holistic approach of well if we didn’t hit this goal why not and if the answer is well we just didn’t get enough qualified applicants who identify as female then why is that is there something in the way that your job postings are written that makes it would make it someone who identifies as female go or as a woman say um no thank you or is there something in your initial screening process is there is it just that this is a uh specific field where there is not diversity and is there are there opportunities for mentoring there or to help create more diversity um there’s a whole I think that is the most important question is to always ask is why you know with with any Dei initiative why are we doing this why is this an issue why is there this disparity why is it continuing why have we not you know why are we taking this approach over this approach asking the why helps making helps to make sure that you’re your intentions are staying true and that you are again solving the system as a whole and not just the little pieces right so what I’m hearing for employers watching is like there’s a difference between goals and hard targets hard targets mean you’re going to meet them no matter what goals are your aspirations in terms of that underrepresented group and so the key is you have the goals for each underrepresented group whether it’s Bypass or even black indigenous other people of color you might have targets for each of those specific groups for people who don’t identify as as men so women or non-binary and then lgbtq I don’t think I don’t know if that’s something that’s legal to track in in the U.S we were never tracking it in from an HR perspective in in Canada like we would we would handle that from a different lens but it wasn’t something so like I I think I kind of alluded to this before of those groups are there any groups where you’re not allowed to set a Target or a goal around um you know I don’t off the top of my head and again not knowing all the specific States for sure yeah state laws that that may have um if there’s been a recent change as I try to keep up on all of them but uh sometimes they slip through I don’t I can’t think of a specific class where you would be prohibited from obtaining these internal metrics and and you know tracking for internal use only of course uh and not again not for making employment decisions just for everyone’s information uh there’s not a specific class that I think you would be forbidden from tracking now I would remind employers that especially when it comes to you know their lgbtqia people for example

that may be more difficult for the fact that employees may or may not be out um they may or may not be ready to come out employer their workplaces um there are uh you know that is something where oftentimes um employees may not want to divulge that information and should not be put into a situation where they feel forced or cornered so I would always remind employers to remember that uh you should never Force an employee to disclose anything they don’t want to disclose especially anything like that um and instead there are other ways to help make lgbtqia employees feel more comfortable more safe more included in your workplaces and Foster that kind of diversity without saying uh or without having to say well are you uh you know CIS or are you transfer you non-binary are you you know what do you uh what are your um are you uh straight or you identify as gay lesbian bisexual pansexual there’s a number of ways you can do it without having to ask those kinds of questions and put employees in really absolutely and I think and to your point like a lot of people won’t feel safe coming out and that’s their right and that’s okay and I think it comes back to if you’re trying to track these things being clear on what that information is being how it’s being stored what what it’s being used for and that it’s completely optional and how you’re using it and that sort of thing but also for for organizations where they are where they do have people disclosing their their status in terms of whether they identify as lgbtqia plus is don’t then burden them with that kind of work because because I mean it’s different than other groups where disabilities sometimes can be invisible as well um but they’re you know once you have disclosed and then all of a sudden Pride week comes around and you’re being tasked with you know just to from an Optics point of view of being like look we are an inclusive organization and um and we’re going to have you lead this sort of event or whatever it is it’s kind of tricky because you want to include those voices you don’t want to host an event or do something um without being informed or understanding what the real barriers are but you also want to walk that fine line of not burdening people especially because you know and this comes up with a lot of my clients um when they’re being burdened with more unpromotable work than others yes so yeah anyways now we’re kind of going off on a tangent yeah you think that’s a good good thing to know is is you know uh I mean first of all asking the people who are being impacted you know who who burden who who carry the burden of being someone who um has the uh certain stigmas against them or belongs to an underrepresented Community asking them to carry the work and do that emotional labor is not fair that is not the way to approach these and and you know I always you would tell someone if the only time you’re featuring your for example lgbtqia employees is during June there’s a problem if the only time that you’re featuring them you’re talking about them as you know this is our our uh this this employee is one of our top xyz’s and our you know leading advocate for lgbtqia rights in the workplace or I see this with uh people who identify as women quite a bit they’re identified as as one of our top lady Engineers or this mama bear watch how you use your language and how you describe people and if you’re only describing them based off of them taking a certain box like this that’s going to be a problem totally and that’s going against really like fostering diversity and inclusion because you know first of all each underrepresented group is not a monolith we’ve said that on here before um I lost my thought but it’s it’s it’s it’s complicated right because you want to you want to be able to Showcase this talent but you also don’t want to fall into the Trap of tokenism because it is awful and I think that goes to your point of the hard targets if you are setting hard targets that’s when this and and already even if they are gold they’re seen by other employees as hard targets and so people who are in the dominant group often weaponize that against underrepresented groups to be like you’re only in this role because of your your race or you’re only in this role because you’re a woman um and that can activate imposter syndrome and already like women and people of color are more likely to experience imposter syndrome regardless of the their achievements and so I think that’s just another thing to be aware of but we’re kind of getting away from the legal stuff um I don’t know what what other questions could we only have four minutes I know we wanted to talk a little bit about layoffs I don’t know if we have time for that if we have time for that so I think what well yeah is hopefully Elizabeth wants to come back and this can be yeah local longer conversation but I think I really want to hone in and kind of summarize some of the pieces here right so overarching if you want to put in diversity equity and inclusion and belonging initiatives you will want to involve a lawyer and you will want to be very clear on what it is you’re doing why you’re doing it and then creating the how from there and having a really clear road map because that’s the only way that you’re actually going to accomplish these things and a way to ensure that you’re doing it legally and that it’s sustainable as well is to involve a lawyer and we’ll have Elizabeth talk about her Law Firm here in just a second other pieces if you aren’t quite in that stage yet and maybe you’re even like oh do we have a diversity equity and inclusion problem probably unfortunately like let’s start there like start with the assumption that there there potentially is an issue reframe is an opportunity not a problem yeah it’s an opportunity but it’s an opportunity to ask questions it’s an opportunity to dig in so talking to the executive team first like okay what do we need to be aware of what are we maybe not aware of what do our numbers that we currently have show us where what are our diversity numbers right now what are they for entry-level Junior seniors like start digging into those things and asking the questions and know your why why do you want to engage in this conversation and why do you want to have initiatives in the first place um is there anything else that you want to close with before we have Elizabeth talk about her Law Firm real quick Elizabeth how would people find you your firm and what states if that matters for what your firm represents there we go uh yeah thank you first of all both of you so much again for having me uh today I would love to come back this has been such a great experience I love talking about Dei and how we as lawyers can work and help companies uh to create these kinds of initiatives to put these programs into place and to solve some of these systemic issues that you know unfortunately are pretty pervasive throughout the workplace so I really appreciate it um my Law Firm bearings Mike Leonard we work with uh both employers and employees throughout the country uh we are uh so we are able to um we’re based here in Northern Virginia we do work throughout the United States uh unfortunately we don’t have any Canadian lawyers yet but um we uh we do uh definitely are are available you can find us at uh you can also find us on LinkedIn we also do employment law and business law podcasts which I have been on a few and uh which can be very helpful and you can find those I believe on YouTube and apple podcasts and and the main podcast sites for uh Google phones as I don’t know what those are yeah we will link those I will get those from Jenny and we’ll link those in the comments section wherever you’re watching this live uh other pieces if you are a job seeker and you are looking for a tech job please go join us at under the hire me button if you are an employer who is taking Dei seriously and you are looking for access to a diverse Community we have one for you please go join us also at under I’m hiring we are more than happy to support you in your movement in this space and if you have more questions for us we are more than happy to answer them and make connections to Elizabeth and her firm if that is something that you need as well Jesse do you have any closing comments before we drop off today no nothing really to add I really look forward to continuing this conversation with Elizabeth though because I’ve learned some things today and it’s got me thinking of even more questions perfect well thank you for joining us Elizabeth and everybody who is here with us we hope you have a wonderful week

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