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OFCCP Meets with Legal Stakeholders and Warns of Need Do Better with Diversity and Inclusion Practices

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OFCCP cautioned that law may be among the industry sectors facing increased scrutiny in the next fiscal year

According to Law360, during an industry stakeholders meeting held in New York with OFCCP, law firms were told that they need to “get their house in order” when it comes to diversity and inclusion practices. OFCCP Director Craig Leen cautioned that law may be among the industry sectors that may face increased scrutiny by the agency in the next fiscal year, particularly when it comes to promotions, since women, minorities and disabled individuals are underrepresented in top-level equity partner positions. He cited a recent study by the National Association for Law Placement that said women and women of color are vastly underrepresented at the equity partner level when compared with the percentage of women who graduate law school and hold associate positions. Additionally, he mentioned a statistic that indicated that less than a half-percent of the equity partners are individuals with disabilities.

Leen thought that one of the obstacles to diversity at the top for females may be inadequate policies regarding paid leave for new parents. He suggested that law firms should consider prorating billable hour requirements for any parent that takes leave and making sure that they are not penalized for taking parental leave.

Leen said that OFCCP plans to issue guidance regarding how far the agency’s reach extends when it comes to policing problematic practices involving lawyers who are equity partners but said that they can now look at issues surrounding promotions to equity partner positions. “The promotion of associates or nonequity partners to partner is something I think we would have jurisdiction over because we have jurisdiction over the employees who are being promoted to partner or not promoted,” Leen said. “Someone who’s not promoted to partner is still an employee. So, they’ve been harmed would be the argument if they’ve been discriminated against, particularly if that affects their compensation or their opportunities at the firm. “Generally, I do think we have a hook here, which is the promotion hook, and we are going to be pursuing that when we look at firms,” Leen added.

Leen told legal stakeholders “You need to take a look at what’s happening because you are the example to the world of compliance with law. … It’s important that you never be in a position where it be viewed as you are being hypocritical or not following the legal advice that you give to others.”

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