On the heels of the United States Supreme Court’s decision limiting affirmative action in college admissions, we have seen an increase in workers who do not belong to historically underrepresented demographic groups filing lawsuits challenging their employers’ diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs.[1] As a result, some businesses may wonder: Are our DEI efforts worth the legal risk? For most businesses, the consensus answer appears to be “yes.”Continue Reading Still “Business as Usual”: Recent Challenges to Company DEI Efforts

What is caste and caste discrimination?

“Caste” or a “caste system” is a social hierarchy passed down through families and can dictate an individual’s permissible professions as well as aspects of their social life, including whom they can marry.[1] It exists in a variety of ways, but for purposes of defining a legally protected class, it most directly relates to persons of South Asian descent. Importantly, however, an individual’s race or religion is not a caste, and caste and race/religion should not be equated or conflated.[2]Continue Reading An Emerging Protected Class: Caste Discrimination in the United States

When “Gymtimidation” Turns Into Discrimination

The issues of acceptance and comfort in fitness centers can pose serious challenges for owners. A healthy gym environment can empower all individuals, regardless of age, gender, ability, and race. However, if managed by inadequately trained staff or run without oversight, a gym can become a divisive place that breeds anxiety and fear. The phenomenon of “gymtimidation” is a popular topic among fitness center owners and gym enthusiasts alike. A 2022 study of roughly 3,000 individuals revealed that 90% of gym-goers are concerned about others’ opinions and 42% of gym-goers experience appearance-based anxiety while at the gym. Notably, Gen-Z gym-goers are the most affected by “gymtimidation,” with 38% of that demographic identifying “fear of judgment” as a reason for disliking gyms.Continue Reading Employment Discrimination in Fitness Centers: How Employers Can Combat Harassment and Create an Inclusive Environment for Employees and Patrons

The Supreme Court’s recent decision on affirmative action in the SFFA v. Harvard/UNC cases has raised lots of questions for private employers. Specifically, private employers want to know what impact – if any – does the Court’s decision have on DEI programs? The short answer is not much, if any.Continue Reading Understanding the Supreme Court’s Affirmative Action Decision: What it Means for Private Employers’ DEI Programs

On June 29, 2023, in a 6-3 decision authored by Chief Justice Roberts, Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, the U.S. Supreme Court (“Court” or “Supreme Court”) held that college and university race-conscious admission decisions at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment (“the Harvard-UNC Decision”). The specifics of the race-conscious admissions process used by these higher education institutions and the Supreme Court’s opinion is more fully discussed in Husch Blackwell’s recent post, Supreme Court Prohibits Consideration of Race in College Admissions. The majority and concurring opinions, though, have prompted speculation about the decision’s potential impact on federal contractors subject to affirmative action obligations to provide equal employment opportunities to minorities and women under Executive Order 11246 as well as on employers that have voluntarily adopted diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. While the Harvard-UNC Decision addressed racial preferences as opposed to affirmative action to ensure equal employment opportunities, the decision provides federal contractors and private employers with some guideposts for lawful implementation of affirmative action and DEI practices.Continue Reading Federal Contractors and Employers with DEI Initiatives: Three Takeaways from SCOTUS Decision Striking Down Racial Preferences

When the pandemic hit, many employees began working remotely. Even now, post-pandemic, many employers have maintained flexible work options for employees. With remote working increasing, many employers are grappling with new ways to create a workplace community that can flourish in the new remote work reality. One strategy is the creation of Employee Resource Groups (“ERGs”).Continue Reading Leveraging the Power of Employee Resource Groups While Mitigating Risk: A Practical Guide

We’ve emerged from the traditional winter season of flu, strep, and stomach viruses (often on repeat for those with small children) and are well into the traditional spring season of sneezing, sniffling, and coughing. As such, it is worth considering the role healthcare plays in each of our lives. For some, we might have found ourselves at the doctor a few times over the past year—once for an annual wellness visit and once or twice for antibiotics.Continue Reading Diagnosing the Future: Considering DEIA as a Treatment Plan for Healthcare Employers to Improve Patient Outcomes

Many companies have invested in and prioritized diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) initiatives over the past several years. And for good reason: DEIA initiatives have been proven to improve employee recruitment, retention, and morale, and to help mitigate risks associated with potential disparate treatment and discrimination claims by employees.Continue Reading Best Practices for Navigating Legal & Political Guardrails Impacting Employer DEIA Efforts