Diversity and Inclusion

In the wake of the #HeForShe movement, California recently became the first US state to require companies to put female directors on their corporate boards.

Supporters of the law make a convincing business case for gender diversity, citing rigorous research findings showing companies where women are represented at board or top-management levels are also the companies that perform best financially. Beyond the business case however, there is also a sense that increased representation is critical to discussions and decisions affecting corporate culture and ensuring workplace respect and dignity.

Now is the time to focus on building a strong corporate culture of equality and respect. California is advancing a trend started in Australia and a number of European countries in recognizing the importance of gender-balanced corporate boards. Germany, Italy and the Netherlands all have initiatives in place to boost corporate board representation.

Baker McKenzie is uniquely positioned to guide companies in developing globally compliant corporate diversity and inclusion initiatives, including board compliance issues. Click here for more information on board level D&I initiatives around the globe, and how we can help.

Government contractors are familiar with the obligation to retain minority or women-owned businesses as subcontractors to obtain government work. Increasingly, apex private sector businesses require participation by minority or women-owned businesses as a condition of obtaining work, as well.

A recent decision by the federal court for the Southern District of New York is a cautionary tale, and highlights the care required when terminating a minority business enterprise (MBE) sub-contractor. Annuity Funds Operating Engineers Local 15 v. Tightseal, No. 17-CV-3670 (S.D.N.Y. August 14, 2018).

Continue Reading Termination Of An MBE Can Lead To Liability

Alyssa Milano tweeted #MeToo just about one year ago. Since then, we’ve seen unprecedented attention on sexual harassment in the workplace and a number of high profile individuals have been taken to task.

For employers, the spotlight, viral encouragement to come forward and public scrutiny is translating to an outpouring of claims and lawsuits. Indeed, in September 2018, the EEOC reported a surge in sexual harassment filings–more than a 50 percent increase in suits challenging sexual harassment over FY 2017.

Continue Reading #MeToo Legislation Lands In California With A Thud

As we previously reported, New York State’s new sexual harassment prevention policy and training requirements take effect today, October 9, 2018.

After issuing draft documents in August, the State released final guidance clarifying the new requirements just last week, giving employers little time to get their ducks in a row before the October 9 deadline.

Continue Reading Effective Oct. 9, 2018: NY State Sexual Harassment Policy & Training Requirements

California just became the first state to require companies to put female directors on their boards.

“Given all the special privileges that corporations have enjoyed for so long, it’s high time corporate boards include the people who constitute more than half the ‘persons’ in America,” Governor Jerry Brown wrote in signing Senate Bill 826 into law on September 30. The legislation appears sparked by recent debates around sexual harassment, workplace culture and gender equality, and it comes less than one year after Brown signed the state’s salary history ban.

Continue Reading California Becomes First State To Mandate Female Board Of Directors

Originally published by Bloomberg Law.

Pay equity is a hot button issue for employers in the United States for a number of reasons—reputational concerns are triggered with increasing shareholder demands for transparency; activist investor groups are pushing companies, particularly in the financial services and technology industries, to disclose gender pay data; and, in the wake of pay equity in the news, employees are asking more questions about the issue.

Compounding the pressure, the gender pay gap also can impact talent acquisition. A recent Glassdoor survey found that 67% of US employees say they would not apply for jobs at employers where they believe a gender pay gap exists. The impact is magnified when looking at millennials. Approximately 80% of millennials, as noted in the Glassdoor survey, say they would not even apply for a job if they believed the company had a gender pay gap, which drives home the point that focusing on equality is, among other things, essential for a positive employer brand in the US market.

Click here to read on.

On June 20, our partners Bill Dugan and Meredith Kaufman presented to the New York City chapter of the ACC on Minding the (Gender Pay) Gap. Along with two in-house counsel panelists, Meredith and Bill discussed strategies for complying with equal pay protections under state and local laws and narrowing the pay gap.

One clear theme of the panel discussion was that pay equity cannot be viewed in a vacuum. As Meredith explained:

With equal pay protections expanding, it’s a critical time for clients to identify and rectify unjustified pay disparities between men and women. An effective remediation plan may include salary increases, but employers also need to address systemic bias and harassment to root out pay inequality.

Another takeaway was the importance of maintaining the attorney-client privilege when conducting pay audits. Bill noted:

We regularly undertake pay audits, including an in-house analysis of data, for our clients.  Conducting these audits under privilege allows us to identify potential exposure and advise on strategies to reduce legal risk, while protecting the analysis from disclosure as much as possible.

For more on how Baker McKenzie is assisting clients with their gender pay and pay equity compliance, please visit our Gender Pay Gap webpage.

In late May, California announced new amendments to the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) strengthening the protections afforded to applicants and employees, including those who are undocumented, on the basis of national origin. The changes go into effect July 1, 2018. The new regulations significantly broaden the definition of “national origin” as well as conduct that constitutes discrimination based on national origin.

Continue Reading California Expands National Origin Protections In The Workplace

In a narrow ruling on June 4, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake for a couple celebrating a same-sex wedding on the basis of his religious opposition to same-sex marriages. (Same-sex marriages were not legal in Colorado at the time.) After the baker rebuffed the couple in 2012, they filed a charge with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission pursuant to the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in a “place of business engaged in any sales to the public and any place offering services . . . to the public.”

Continue Reading SCOTUS Narrowly Rules In Favor Of Baker In Same-Sex Confectionery Controversy In Fact-Specific Decision

Two recent events in the US vividly illustrate the growing centrality of gender pay equity issues. On one side of the ledger, in early April 2018, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in Rizo v. Fresno County Office of Education, held that an employee’s prior salary—either alone or in a combination of factors—cannot be used to justify paying women less than men in comparable jobs. On the other side of the ledger, the US Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, on April 20, 2018, announced that it is upending standards implemented during President Obama’s administration designed to promote gender pay equity among federal contractors. Under this new policy, employers will be able to decide for themselves how their employees should be categorized and analyzed for purposes of fair pay investigations by the government.

These two US events are merely the latest examples of increased activity around the globe with regard to the issue of pay equity.  Click here to read more.