July 22, 2019 Articles

Is Overstating a Commitment to Diversity a Deceptive Trade Practice?

Employers should be very careful in touting their accomplishments when it comes to diversity.

By Carmen D. Caruso and Linda C. Chatman

What if a firm’s public commitment to diversity is merely a charade by which the enterprise hopes to maintain a positive public image—an empty promise to win business from clients or customers that demand diversity at every level of their supply chain?

In 2015, a prominent North Carolina law firm actively recruited an African-American female lawyer by promising that the firm was diverse and inclusive. However, despite her impressive credentials, including two federal judicial clerkships at both district-court and court-of-appeals levels, the firm failed to view or treat her as a full-fledged attorney. On its web page, the firm claimed to have been a leader in the areas of diversity and inclusion in its region for more than a decade—but the firm failed to disclose contrary facts, e.g. a paltry total of 10 black attorneys ever being hired at the firm and the firm’s black lawyers being relegated to a segregated Christmas party for Blacks only. This lawyer sued her firm.

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