Midwinter Meetings Celebrate Events Promoting Diversity
During the 2012 Midwinter Meeting season, ten Section Standing Committees held sixteen diversity events approved by the Equal Opportunity in the Legal Profession Committee ("EOLP") for Section funding. The Section provides funding of up to $1,000 of reimbursed expenses to committees that hold pre-approved diversity events at their Midwinter Meetings. Here are the highlights of these events.
ADR in Labor & Employment Law Committee (ADR): Natalie Holder-Winfield, the ADR Committee's EOLP Liaison, provided an update on relevant diversity issues in the bar and discussed strategies for advancing the Committee's diversity initiatives during ADR's Midwinter Meeting. Led by Natalie, the Committee discussed how they were going to meet these goals. The Committee expressed that having an effective diversity strategy is important for achieving the Committee's goals.
Committee on Development of the Law under the NLRA (DLL): DLL held separate breakfast meetings for women and lawyers of color. Both breakfast meetings were well attended and had lively discussions about how to continue to increase diversity within the Committee and at their Midwinter Meetings.
Employment Rights & Responsibilities Committee (ERR): ERR opened their 2012 Midwinter Meeting with a program entitled "Jackpot Lessons Learned from 'Diversity' Cases in the 21st Century," which featured EEOC Commissioner Victoria Lipnic and attorneys who represent management and employees. Topics covered included the future of affirmative action plans, where do affirmative action plans fit with diversity programs from a legal perspective, what are the legal pitfalls employers face with diversity programs in the workplace and concerns about reverse discrimination. The program was followed by a Diversity Reception, which encouraged further discussion of the issues raised during the session.
Equal Employment Opportunity Committee (EEO): EEO presented two events to celebrate and increase diversity in the legal profession at its National Conference on EEO Law in March. At the Committee's Diversity Luncheon, EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien addressed expanding opportunities for workplace diversity including within the legal profession. The Committee's Diversity Reception that same day featured three speakers (Kelly Dermody, Julius Turman, and Randy Coffey), representing both the management and employee constituencies, who discussed LGBT inclusiveness within the legal profession. Kelly and Julius also discussed the findings and guidance set forth in a report by the San Francisco Bar Association and best practices concerning hiring, retention, and promotion of LGBT attorneys.
Ethics & Professional Responsibility Committee: The Committee presented a program entitled "Cultural and Linguistic Competence: Desired or Required?" The panel, which included two attorneys from the EEOC, a management attorney, and a representative from the California Rural Legal Assistance, discussed issues of cultural sensitivity when handling cases involving witnesses or claimants from diverse cultures. The panelists encouraged the Midwinter Meeting attendees to ponder how his/her firm would score in (a) awareness, (b) attitude, (c) knowledge, and (d) skills in a cross-cultural situation.
Federal Labor Standards Legislation Committee (FLSL): FLSL held a Diversity Breakfast in Key West, Florida, by acknowledging the official philosophy of Key West—One Human Family. Proclaimed the official philosophy of Key West on October 17, 2000, "One Human Family" is predicated upon the ideals that all people are equal and that there is no "them," just "us," living together as one human family. The all-volunteer, non-profit organization that promotes One Human Family provides bumper stickers and wristbands as a demonstration of support for unity and equality. During the breakfast, Committee members were provided copies of the official proclamation, bumper stickers, and wrist bands as a show of support for One Human Family. The committee also honored the rich historical and cultural elements of its host city, Key West, by playing a Key West trivia game. The questions focused on Key West's fascinating history, diverse heritage, and broad artistic traditions. With input from Section Chair Rick Seymour, Committee members discussed the Section's overall diversity efforts and how the FLSL Committee might work toward further promoting diversity in its membership and programming.
Federal Service Labor & Employment Law Committee (FSL): FSL presented a program entitled "Disability Discrimination, Accommodation and Related Issues in Federal Employment." The program covered issues surrounding federal employees with disabilities including leave and reassignment as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA and recent changes to the ADAAA and GINA. The panel, which included attorneys from the Department of Justice--Civil Rights Division, Department of Labor, Department of Health and Human Services, and private practice, discussed how they work with federal employers to ensure their rights are protected, what employees can do to remain competitive in the federal job market, and the questions and protections that arise when a federal employee with a disability is covered by a collective bargaining agreement.
International Labor & Employment Law Committee: Members of the Committee's Diversity Subcommittee hosted an open forum on diversity in the legal profession, specifically in the global labor and employment law field. The discussion focused on initiatives that attract more women, disabled and LGBT individuals to the Committee as well as ways to involve more non-U.S. attorneys.
Committee on Practice and Procedure under the NLRA (P&P): P&P presented an insightful program entitled "Attracting and Retaining Diverse Lawyers in the Legal Profession," which was led by Jennifer Hill, a Field Director and Community Organizer from the University of Miami. Ms. Hill was joined on the panel by both management and union representatives. The program sparked lively and thoughtful discussion among the Committee members regarding both diversity in the legal profession and in Committee participation. The Committee also offered a luncheon for female attorneys during the Midwinter Meeting, which provided female attorneys an opportunity to network and build relationships with their colleagues. The Committee believes that these types of events foster personal relationships among members and will have a long-term positive impact on the diversity of the Committee's membership.
The EOLP is interested in helping other standing committees plan diversity programs and is currently compiling a list of possible diversity activities. If you have an idea for a diversity event, please contact Katrina Simonsis in the Section office.