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First Reader Comments On “Race Discussion In The Workplace”

Posted in General Employment Matters

After the President’s impromptu press conference on Friday in which, in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin case, he encouraged the nation to enter into a discussion on the issue of race, even in the workplace, we asked readers to comment on whether the workplace is an appropriate forum for such a discusion.

We received a couple of comments of note pretty rapidly, and welcome more.

Robin Benton, an employee benfits professional from Chicago, said “Good question.  But maybe the better question is if it happens, how does an employer handle it?

Lorene F. Schaefer, Esq., a mediator and workplace investigator from Georgia, who has her own blog, Win-Win HR, responded:

“Even the type of well-intentioned discussions about race (or gender or disabilities or sexuality or religion or other protected category) that President Obama seems to be envisioning can easily be misconstrued by one or more of the participants or observers.  When those well-intentioned discussions are misconstrued in the workplace they open up the employer to claims of discrimination and retaliation.

Employers would do well to anticipate that the President’s remarks may spark these discussions in the workplace (even where the employer is not the one starting them) and leaders may want to develop a game plan for responding.  Company cultures that place a premium on transparent leadership and communication about such things as the criteria used for promotion, compensation and training decisions will be best positioned to address the situation when these discussions happen.”

Anyone else?  The President’s talk, perhaps to be remembered as one of his most important, has far reaching implications, but the issue raised about discussing race in the workplace poses risks and dangers which should also be a part of a ”well-intentioned discussion about race.”  

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