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The following discussion thread excerpt is from a recent law.com online seminar, “Eliminating Bias From the Workplace,” moderated by Kim Clark. For more information on this program and other law.com seminar offerings please visit http://www.law.com/seminars. KIM CLARK, ATTORNEY AT LAW, OAKLAND, CALIF. It’s a new day and we’ll be discussing sexual orientation in the workplace. Sub-topics include: A) Sexual Orientation Discrimination B) Perception of Sexual Orientation Bias in the Circuit Courts: Major Disparity C) Lack of Federal Legislation: Is There a Need for More Legislation? Baseline question to consider: Is this the type of discrimination Title VII was designed to prohibit? And if not, does it matter in our understanding of the workplace and this movement toward the eradication of discrimination? Can anyone give us their opinion, reviewing the Circuits and their stand on sexual orientation discrimination? Is there a need for federal legislation given that states are free to enact laws in this area, as have California (and other states)? CASSANDRA KNIGHT, KEKER & VAN NEST, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. Although states such as California have been progressive in addressing sexual orientation bias in the workplace, I do think the issue can and should be addressed at the federal level as well. Unfortunately, the states that probably need the legislation the most are the ones least likely to enact it. I wanted to ask the other panelists and/or attendees what their thoughts are regarding outreach in the workplace to gay and lesbian attorneys. I work for what I think is a very progressive and tolerant firm. But we only have one gay attorney here. I believe that firms, even ones like mine, sometimes have trouble recruiting openly gay applicants who are concerned about being isolated. Does anyone have any specific suggestions for overcoming this problem? JIM WILLIAMS, NATIONAL EMPLOYMENT LAW PROJECT, NEW YORK, N.Y. Any firm interested in recruiting lesbian and gay applicants can send recruitment notices to the lesbian and gay law associations at the various law schools. Call the placement office at the school and get a contact. In recruitment notices, specifically say that lesbians and gay men are encouraged to apply. In cities that have lesbian and gay law associations, advertise for lateral hires in the association newsletters. Also, make sure to purchase a table at the annual dinner of the local lesbian and gay law association, and actually go to the dinner even if that means sending straight people. Don’t worry; lots of non-gay people go to these dinners, especially politicians and judges. Purchase an ad in the journal of the dinner. Also, the firm can make donations to lesbian and gay charities and do pro bono work for lesbian and gay organizations. Review all employment polices to make sure that they apply equally to gay people. For example, the bereavement and sick leave policies should provide time off for time related to partners as wells as spouses. And do not place the burden on the one gay associate to articulate how policies need to be changed. Invite this person to help, but don’t place the burden on him. Both the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and the San Francisco Bar Association have published reports on the things that employers can do to modify employment policies to meet the needs of lesbian and gay workers. Of course, these steps can be taken to attract women and people of color as well. Good luck! SANDY MCCANDLESS, SONNENSCHEIN, NATH & ROSENTHAL, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. I believe there is a need for federal legislation. With respect to race, sex, disability, etc., nothing significant happened until there was federal legislation. I agree with the comment that the states that need it the most are the ones that do not have it. With the current makeup of Congress and depending upon the outcome of the Presidential election, I hate to say this but we may have a long wait. The best way to recruit gay attorneys is to have some employed. Once a firm becomes known for being gay-friendly, it is easier to recruit. PATRICIA HOWZE, CENTURY CORPORATE COUNSEL, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. I couldn’t agree more with Jim’s comments. Far too often, companies and firms complain that they are unable to recruit a more diverse workforce; however, they continue to recruit in the same places as they did before. In order to find a diverse candidate, you have to recruit where you will most likely find diverse candidates. As an example, one company’s legal department put together a binder on recruiting methods specifically aimed at diverse candidates. The binder contained, among other things, a section that listed all the minority bar associations and the names and telephone numbers of their contacts. That list was updated on a yearly basis. The contacts listed in that binder provided a wealth of information that was useful in improving the department’s hiring results. But, there has to be follow-through. Once diverse candidates have been solicited and recruited, hiring decisions must be made that include these candidates. Otherwise, it will appear to be a sham. There are plenty of qualified diverse candidates in the workforce. It just takes a little “thinking outside the box” to find them. Then, once an employer gains the reputation of having a supportive, friendly and inclusive workplace, that not only hires, but also retains, its valued workforce, the word will spread and it will be easier to recruit. I would also like to raise the topic of mentoring as one way to support and retain the diversity the employer has worked so hard to put into place. I’d like to hear comments on whether or not companies and/or firms should put into place mentoring programs especially designed for minority employees. One managing partner told me that he did not feel that mentoring programs benefited anyone. He stated that all employees should be treated equally and that special mentoring programs singled out employees and gave them privileges not given to the other employees. LAURIE SIMONSON, GORDON REES, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. Employers need to be reminded on a regular basis that diversity includes sexual orientation in addition to race and gender. Often employers are unaware that their actions and policies are not gay-friendly. For example, law firms that schedule their summer associate retreat the same weekend as gay pride weekend probably don’t realize that they are forcing their gay summer associates to choose between a firm event and an important gay cultural event. A summer associate might not have the courage to speak up on the issue. One of the best ways to increase awareness is for someone who is known and respected within the law firm or company to raise the issue in a non-threatening manner. The Bar Association of San Francisco took a survey of law firms in the Bay Area several years ago to determine the climate for gays and lesbians. The results of the survey revealed that progress is being made as far as awareness of gay and lesbian issues, especially at the larger firms. However, the survey also revealed that there is still a long way to go. Even today, many firms in the Bay Area still respond when asked about openly gay associates or partners that this is a “private” issue about which they don’t inquire.

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