Responding to Seismic Workplace Shifts Through Updated DEI Training

March 23, 2022

By Maddie Brown, Associate Attorney

Just last week, Law360 reported that Seismic Workplace Shifts Merit New Anti-Bias Trainings. In the article, staff writer Anne Cullen reported that social media use, an enhanced focus on diversity and inclusion, and the rise of remote work have led legal experts to say that employers’ anti-discrimination trainings need to be revamped to keep up.

Since our firm’s inception, LCLG has advocated for a more in-depth, practical approach than the typical one-off sexual harassment videos offered by human resource departments everywhere. These trainings were inadequate even before the pandemic, but now they’re borderline irrelevant.

In our practice, we’ve already seen the divide between workers when it comes to knowledge of DEI principles become a gulf. The pandemic meant more time spent at home, which meant more time spent on our phones, more time contributing to and interacting with algorithms designed to trap us on our phones, and more exposure to information on the most extreme ends of every possible spectrum. This means that individuals who were more likely to already be aware of DEI principles gained increased and more nuanced exposure to those concepts, and individuals who likely weren’t aware of DEI principles at all didn’t gain any exposure to the concepts. If anything, those individuals were likely exposed to content opposing DEI principles.

As a training facilitator, this requires additional leg work in order to be able to meet participants where they’re at… and a sexual harassment video from the late 00s about inappropriate water cooler jokes is not where anybody’s at. To better address contemporary workplace issues, LCLG has refreshed our training curriculum in the past two years through the introduction of two new sub-modules, (1) Gender Diversity and (2) Generational Diversity.

Federal, state, and local anti-harassment laws prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on sex, but what is sex? The TikTok generation might be fully comfortable explaining their gender identity to a boomer coworker, but less plugged-in employees might have difficulty understanding the wide array of new terminology involved in those conversations. Our gender diversity curriculum provides participants with introductory-level information on the concepts of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and biological sex. This curriculum utilizes both a legal framework and a practical one in order to help participants understand what harassment and discrimination might look like in their post-pandemic workplace.

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve also seen the expectation divide between the under-twenty-five set and their parents and grandparents spread to what feels like a truly insurmountable gap. Younger workers and older workers vary considerably with respect to their preferred leadership approach, opinion on returning to the office, communication style, comfort with technology, approach to feedback, views toward the trade or profession, and preferred work/life balance. And yet, most antiquated workplace trainings treat all employees exactly the same regardless of their generational identity. Our facilitators dig in with participants about their specific attitudes and how they perceive the attitudes of coworkers outside their generational group, which ultimately prepares participants to engage more meaningfully with their peers and community on a day-to-day basis.

If the current trends have taught us anything, it’s that compliance with EEO and anti-discrimination laws is the bare minimum for employers and other organizations. Reach out to us to see how we can help your organization exceed its legal responsibilities and remain current despite the “seismic workplace shifts” that both employers and employees are experiencing as they come out of the pandemic.