Navigating the world of employment discrimination law is challenging for practitioners and employers alike. With greater attention to issues of social justice and equity in the workplace, companies face increased legal and reputational risk. A new treatise from PLI Press, Employment Discrimination: A Practitioner’s Deskbook, helps shed light on these complex issues. Its author, experienced employment litigator Keisha-Ann G. Gray of Proskauer Rose LLP, provides background on the book and what sets it apart from other employment law resources.
What made you decide that now was the time to publish a book like this?
The complex issues that we grapple with in our personal lives as a society are the same issues that we grapple with in our professional lives in the workplace. And these issues shape our experiences — especially when it comes to issues and allegations of unfair treatment, including, but not limited to discrimination and harassment.
I realized that there is a crucial need for a book that can address these issues from an active practitioner’s perspective in a straightforward manner and that can also be easily understood by lawyers and non-lawyers alike.
In writing this book at this moment, I also realize the value and unique perspective I bring to the discourse as a female employment defense attorney of color. I am grateful for the fact that I get to be a voice for perspectives that historically have not been heard in large corporations, and I have seen organizations benefit from this perspective in making working environments more equitable, just, and positive for all.
You have served as a trusted adviser to major corporations for years. How did you draw on your professional and personal experiences to conceive of this book?
Simply put, I use “real talk” to cut through the noise and get to the heart of the issue for my client. Being able to understand, synthesize, and relay clearly to my client the salient issues at play and on the horizon — and the risks involved — is critical to helping them best move their organization and its business objectives forward.
Clients turn to me precisely because this is my approach. Additionally, from a personal and professional perspective, I am one of the few litigators and trial lawyers who has represented both the federal government as well as private sector clients faced with sensitive employment discrimination claims. Not only do I have professional experience in this area, but I also have a unique understanding of workplace power dynamics as a woman of color who has always practiced in a male-dominated industry. This perspective informs my counsel in a personal way and resonates with not just my clients, but also, critically, with the employees who are at odds with my clients. I use my experience to enhance my approach to helping my clients work through, and solve, their workplace challenges.
How has your professional experience informed your writing of this book?
During my tenure at Proskauer, I’ve led or been involved in nearly 350 matters related to workplace discrimination, harassment, and/or toxic work environment claims. And prior to joining Proskauer, I handled hundreds of matters for the federal government as an Assistant U.S. Attorney (Civil Division), and before that as a federal law clerk for a senior judge who had a civil docket chock-full of employment discrimination cases. Each matter that I have worked on throughout my career has taught me something of value — and it’s that value that I want to impart to the readers of this book.
What makes this treatise different from other publications on the market?
It can be clearly understood by practitioners and non-practitioners alike. I felt compelled to write a book that provides the reader with current and practical tips for effectively managing all areas of employment discrimination-related work.
Seldom is it that one deskbook provides the reader with information relating to the full range of employment discrimination litigation from an active practitioner’s perspective. And it’s even rarer for this information to be provided in a plain-talk manner. This unique deskbook does this, addressing topics including, but not limited to, workplace investigations; discovery tools; responding to employment discrimination and harassment complaints; mediation considerations; motion practice before and at trial; jury selection; questioning witnesses; addressing the jury; and handling matters before government agencies.
What recent trends and developments in the industry are covered in the book?
The recent increased focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and social justice in the workplace has given rise to more discrimination and toxic work environment claims in recent years. This book provides readers with clear and practical guidance for handling employment discrimination-related workplace claims. The importance of this cannot be overstated, because how effective an organization is in responding to such claims (including how it chooses to handle workplace investigations — a topic that is covered in this book) often dictates how successful the organization will be in not only avoiding liability, but also in protecting its internal and external-facing reputation in today’s ever-changing environment. How can experienced practitioners use and benefit from the book?
From understanding whether failing to “officially” respond to an unofficial “off-the-record” complaint creates risk, to formulating ways to conduct an effective and thorough investigation remotely, to developing discovery strategies and participating motion practice, to gaining tips for picking a jury and making compelling arguments at trial, this book can assist professionals as they counsel, litigate, and manage harassment and discrimination claims in the workplace.
How can the book be useful for lawyers with less experience in this area? And for non-practitioners?
This book is useful for lawyers with less experience in the area as well, because it discusses the full gamut of employment litigation in a practical, easy-to-read and understand manner. I have never been a fan of legalese — and you won’t find that in this book. It truly is a desk reference that I hope will become not just a resource but an asset as well to employment law practitioners and lay individuals interested in helping their organizations effectively navigate employment discrimination-related investigations, mediations, litigations, and jury trials.