Sometimes good intentions lead to unintended results. Amanda Farahany, managing partner at Barrett & Farahany, and Christine Green of Stanton Law, co-wrote the article "Benevolent Discrimination Is Still Discrimination" for the Fulton County Daily Report (subscription required).
The July 10 article addressed how protests over social injustice and police reform have led to a divide in our communities. The attorneys noted that many organizations want to do something about these issues and often their employees are asking for something to be done.
But there is a cautionary tale here as the attorneys wrote: "These are delicate topics. No matter how well-meaning or planned, a statement or professed policy is not likely to satisfy all constituents and could actually make an already touchy situation worse. Before you take a stand, make a statement or encourage employee action, think about potential ramifications. Even well-intentioned moves can still break discrimination laws."
The employment attorneys offered some points for both employers and their employees to think of during these times.
- Support diversity, but don't force the conversation.
- Employers can take action, but focus on the things you can control.
- Talk to employees about what the company and its leaders are doing to maintain a positive work environment.
- Look for ways to rally the company and employees around positive activities and causes.
- Understand the employee's and public's perspective.
- Maintain an open dialog with employees.
- Consider offering to match employees' contributions to the causes that interest them.
The attorneys summed up the article: "It's impossible to keep the topic of social injustice out of the office today. If you want to make a statement or implement a new policy or program, consult your attorney and consider all ramifications before moving forward."