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Lawyers of San Diego is a specialty bar association committed to advancing the status of women in the law and society. We use this space to share articles written about Lawyers Club events and programs and items of interest to our members which are relevant to our mission. The opinions outlined in content published on the Lawyers Club of San Diego blog are those of the authors and not of Lawyers Club. All members are encouraged to participate respectfully in discussions regarding the topics posted on the blog. Guest writers are welcome.

 

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You Can’t Make People Be Nice – But You Can Ask Them to Be Accountable: The Workplace Equity & Civility Initiative

Posted By Guest blogger Jen Rubin, Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, September 17, 2019

We cannot make people be nice, but we can certainly ask people to be accountable for trying to do better. If we make that commitment, we will make our workplaces better. These are the principles underlying the San Diego Lawyers Club Workplace Equity & Civility Initiative (“WE & CI”).


It occurred to me, early on in the WE & CI’s development, that we were simply asking employees and employers to follow the law. But naturally, it is more than that. The WE & CI is
an important step in rejecting the alarming but growing trend of normalizing bad behavior. The WE & CI provides a path to state, in positive and affirmative terms, that we will try to do better and hold ourselves and all employers accountable for our collective efforts to make our workplaces better.


The WE & CI has two simple components: First, pledge to do one’s best as an employer (and as an employee) to commit to better behavior in the workplace by adopting and enforcing certain policies that will naturally result in a more equitable workplace. The adoption of the WE & CI Commitment is an easy first step in this process. Second, commit to having at least half of an employer’s workforce attend National Conflict Resolution Center-developed training that promotes learning about civility in the workplace.


As an employment lawyer, I am frequently asked to advise clients about the legal implications of bad behavior in the workplace. The concept of “bad behavior” in the bullying, boorish and ill-mannered sense generally carries no legal consequences because “actionable” bad behavior must be grounded in a legal violation. In other words, a nasty supervisor who equally bullies people without regard to gender, race, sexual orientation or any other protected category, does not necessarily create legal risk for the employer. (Though, frequently they do create risk because of the natural insensitivity that accompanies those behaviors.) Bad behavior clearly impacts morale and productivity, but being a jerk does not always carry legal implications.


With that said, state and federal law unambiguously prohibit workplace discrimination (of which sexual harassment is only a subset). Here in California, beginning in 2020, employers of at least five or more employees must provide training – including anti-bullying training –to supervisors and non-supervisory employees. This robust training mandate does not create additional legal liability for engaging in offensive behavior nor does it insulate an employer from liability for such behavior.


We hope that accountability, together with formal group introspection and education, will lead to changes that elude legislation. Peer pressure motivates people to change their behavior. If business leaders set an example and make it clear that they will hold themselves and their employees accountable, then real change will transpire. It is our aim to promote full participation in the WE & CI from our regional employers with the  natural outcome of a civil, productive workplace. That workplace will lead to natural equity without legislation. Or, as we might say, a nicer workplace.

 


Jen Rubin is an employment partner with Mintz, and co-Chairs the San Diego Lawyers Club Workplace Equity & Civility Initiative with immediate past president of Lawyers Club Danna Cotman.

 

 

 

Tags:  bullying  civility  discrimination  employment law  equity  harassment  National Conflict Resolution Center  NCRC  respect  risk  training  Workplace Equity & Civility Initiative 

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Read-In, For Inspiration

Posted By Guest Blogger Joe Mayo, Tuesday, February 26, 2019

 

On October 31, 2018, the San Diego Lawyers Club’s Community Outreach Committee (COC) and San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association (SDLRLA) conducted the Halloween Read-In at Central Elementary, a pre-kindergarten through 5th grade school located in the heart of City Heights. San Diego Lawyers Club has a twenty-three-year Read-In partnership with Central Elementary, where students are among the most economically challenged in the district. This year’s Halloween Read-In event featured numerous memorable costumes and volunteers included many San Diego Lawyers Club members, SDLRLA members, judges, law students, and San Diego City Attorney, Mara Elliott. Both the Halloween and Spring Read-Ins are influential events, where volunteers serve as role models, and provide an opportunity for students to learn about different careers while inspiring them to dream big.

 



This was my first Read-In and I was placed in Mr. Lou’s second grade class. I was paired with Attorneys Danielle Ward and former Lawyers Club President Kate Kowalewski. Danielle read from a book with wide-eyed children looking on with wonder as she pointed to various characters in the book and read out loud. I was moved to see how receptive the children were to Danielle’s reading.

After Danielle read the book, Mr. Lou conducted a mock trial, based on a patent case involving magic wands. Kate acted as the judge as Danielle made her case as plaintiff’s counsel that a student’s wand with a yellow star was copied by another student who had a wand with a blue star. Kate’s evenhanded judging and Danielle’s civil approach echoed San Diego’s courteous legal climate. Just to be clear, I appealed the decision brought down by the jury—a real travesty!

Also, I was touched to see how interested the students were as Mr. Lou went between the two students and explained each step of the trial in terms the youngsters could understand. Lawyers use a lot of big words—who knew?! At any rate, Mr. Lou is an awesome teacher and is the kind of teacher that changes lives and makes a real difference in our society. This event affirmed my belief that teachers like Mr. Lou deserve to be valued highly in our society.

I saw the young lady that was on my side of the patent case outside the school after the event was over. I told her that she did a great job and that she could do anything she wanted if she worked hard. This is one of the best events I have ever attended and am thankful to have been given the opportunity to make an impact on the students.

Mark your calendar for the Spring Read-In on Friday, March 1, 2019 – register here if you wish to participate. In the interim, COC will continue to provide much-needed basic school supplies to Central Elementary through a school supply donation drive and email lc.communityoutreachc@gmail.com to participate in that effort.


Here are some pictures from the event:

 

 

 

Joe Mayo is patent agent at ARC IP Law, PC, a member of San Diego Lawyers Club’s Community Outreach Committee, and is First Man of Lawyers Club 2018-19.

 

Tags:  Central Elementary  civility  Community Outreach Committee  education  mock trial  read-in  San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association  teacher 

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more Calendar

10/24/2019
Fall Judicial Reception

10/31/2019
COC's Halloween Read-In

11/6/2019
Taste of North County: North and Mid-County Committee Mixer

12/11/2019
Fund For Justice Luncheon

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