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Diversity promotion and affirmative action: employers must walk the line, P.1

In our last post, we began looking at the situation faced by Airbnb regarding discrimination against its guests. As we noted last time, the company is on record as stating that its own failure to promote a culture of diversity may be part of why it has been slow to address bias against its guests. Promoting diversity within is somewhat of a challenge for technology companies, but Airbnb’s newly established efforts in this area are certainly a step in the right direction.

Voluntary promotion of a racially inclusive workplace and the promotion of a culture of respect for ethnic differences can, of course, be effective means of battling discrimination. Diversity promotion certainly can be legal under federal law, particularly in situations where the employer changes its hiring practices to ensure that it minimizes the disparate impact on any racial group or works to expand the applicant pool for a disadvantaged race. 

Diversity promotion can be a means of battling racial discrimination, but it can also be more than that. Businesses may choose to promote diversity not only on the grounds that it promotes compliance with federal discrimination requirements, but also on the grounds that it makes the company more profitable. For businesses, promoting diversity should be done cautiously, though, to ensure compliance with federal law.

One possibility in diversity promotion which employers should be cautious about is adoption affirmative action policies, which isn’t necessarily legal under federal law. In the context of this discussion, affirmative action refers to actions an employer takes to overcome the effects of past or present obstacles to equal employment opportunity. While there can be a place for affirmative action policies in diversity promotion, there are also limits.

In our next post, we’ll take a look at this topic and what employers can do to avoid liability