United States: Baker McKenzie's Employment Eye on D&I newsletter - Stay Committed

In brief

Inequality concerns are often magnified and compounded during trying times. The last recession had a disproportionate negative impact on underrepresented groups in the legal profession, and there is mounting evidence that this crisis may again lead to inequitable outcomes.

As we work through this challenging period, fundamental values of inclusion and diversity must remain central and top of mind.

In this issue of the Employment Eye on D&I, we highlight how the pandemic could jeopardize diversity efforts and suggest some tips for keeping inclusion top of mind. So, with that, read on and stay committed. 

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Inclusion Impact - Covid-19 Crisis

Research indicates that the overall impact of this crisis may have a disproportionately negative impact on underrepresented groups in the workplace. See the below articles that provide further context and background. Leaders should thoughtfully and proactively ensure that diverse professionals within their organizations are effectively supported to prevent long term career-limiting consequences based on this temporary challenge.

This crisis also underscores the importance of having diverse representation in leadership. Having diversity among those responsible for key talent decisions is vital to ensure that all perspectives and impacts are appropriately considered.

During trying times, mentorship and sponsorship are more important than ever. Though most teams are working remotely, there are many ways to connect. Reach out proactively to colleagues and do not wait for your team to come to you.

Organizations will continue to be held accountable for diversity, equity and inclusion post-COVID-19. To maintain progress toward core D&I goals, we must all be extra vigilant to interrupt potential bias in decision-making; confirm equitable allocation of work, skills development and client contact opportunities; and closely monitor the impact of promotions, redundancies, compensation changes, work arrangements and related measures taken during this time.

Keeping Inclusion Top of Mind During Cost-Cutting

  1. Companies forced to consider layoffs or furloughs should be aware of where they face risks of apparent adverse impact against protected groups and approach these decisions with care. Statistically evaluate whether decision-making creates the appearance of adverse impact for protected groups.
  2. Many companies may have recently hired disproportionately more women or people of racial or ethnic minorities relative to white men. Prioritizing retention of more experienced employees, may face risk of apparent adverse impact among the race-, ethnic- and gender-diverse employees. Create a diverse team to determine selection criteria.
  3. Involve employees in deciding what roles need to continue, rather than which people need to be retained, and develop an objective process to match employee skills and capabilities with these roles or functions. This may help to counter accusations of favoritism since the focus is on the role as opposed to the individual.
  4. Once a decision is made, be as transparent as possible about the decision-making process so that all employees--those who are members of protected groups, those who are let go in the reduction, and those who are keeping their jobs and may feel "survivor guilt"-- understand the non-discriminatory criteria. A thorough communications plan can help to protect the company from accusations of unfair or discriminatory labor practices. 

Further reading

Impact on workplace equality: 

Mental health impact: 

Overall global impact on equality: 

Pay equity video chat

Susan Eandi, Paul Evans and Emily Harbison connected to discuss the importance of staying on top of pay equity during the pandemic. Listen here.

Mentoring During COVID-19

Anna Brown and Colin Murray shared with Bloomberg Law about how mentoring during COVID-19 is more critical than ever. Read more here.

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