HR Policy hosted a webinar exploring the potential implications of the Supreme Court’s upcoming decisions in a pair of college affirmative action cases. Panelists urged companies to begin preparing internal and external communications strategies addressing the decisions and noted that while the direct legal impact on DEI in the employment context may be limited, the cases will increase scrutiny of employer DEI initiatives and policies in general.
The webinar, Preparing for the Supreme Court’s Harvard Decision, featured a panel of HR Policy members and outside experts, including Kiera Fernandez, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, and Chief D&I Officer, Target, Nadine Redd Blackburn, Senior Principal, United Minds, and David S. Fortney, Co-founder Fortney & Scott, LLC. The panel was moderated by Jacqueline Welch, Chair, HRPA’s Council on Inclusion and Diversity, Executive Vice President and CHRO, the New York Times Company.
The webinar began with a legal overview of the Harvard and UNC Supreme Court cases by HR Policy Associate Counsel and Director of Labor & Employment Policy Greg Hoff, focused on their use of race in admissions programs, and connections to the use of race in employment decisions.
Panelists then focused on preparing company responses and emphasized that employers should begin strategizing internal and external communications in response to the decisions now. “Now is the time to take a look at all of your public materials...with an eye to detail to make sure it is accurate to the letter of the law. It is equally important to identify the why – why your company is engaging in these DEI activities,” said Ms. Blackburn. She encouraged companies to talk with employees about the value of DEI and how it has specifically benefited the company.
Increased employer DEI scrutiny coming soon: Mr. Fortney also noted that while the current cases will not have any direct legal impact on the employment context, employer DEI programs will likely receive increased scrutiny. Indeed, he noted that several lawsuits challenging aspirational goals and other DEI initiatives are already pending. “This will raise this broader societal discussion and incentivize shareholder actions, employee discussions, and reverse discrimination lawsuits,” said Mr. Fortney.
Enterprise-wide alignment: Ms. Fernandez noted that there is an extremely important role for CHROs to play in conversations with employees to ensure that company actions in the DEI space – and responses to the Supreme Court cases here – remain aligned with the company’s overall general goals and values.
Outlook: Decisions in the two cases are expected sometime in June. HR Policy will host a follow-up webinar on July 10 to discuss the aftermath, including what the decisions could mean in the near and longer term for employer DEI initiatives and commitments. More information and registration can be found here.