Having Difficult Discussions About Race Relations in the Workplace Can Keep Peace During the Most Difficult Times.

George Floyd’s Death Opens Communications About Race at WorkThe story is not new. However, it may be the final straw. People across the nation are making sure they are heard this time. George Floyd’s death will not be in vain.

Race relations in America need to change. Whether you worry about police brutality, race discrimination at work, or other forms of systemic racism, the time to talk and make a change is now.

If you want to learn more about the facts of the George Floyd incident and how to start the important conversations about race relations at work, please read on.

What Happened to George Floyd?

There are many stories about why the police targeted George Floyd on May 25, 2020. However, the issue revolves around the next 8 minutes and 46 seconds of the story. Four Minneapolis Police Officers used inhumane and brutal tactics to cause the death of Mr. Floyd, a black man.

One officer restrained Mr. Floyd and made him lay on his belly on the ground with his hands restrained. For the next 8 minutes and 46 seconds, this white officer kneeled on his neck with excessive force, causing death by asphyxiation.

George Floyd’s Death Opens Communications About Race at Work2The other three officers played additional roles in the horrific acts, including compressing Mr. Floyd’s body to the ground and otherwise contributing to Mr. Floyd’s untimely and horrific death. . They did not ask the arresting officer to stop. They did not accept help from others for George. As George Floyd laid on the ground, under the knee of a white officer, he cried for his mother, he cried for help, and he begged for his life.

By the time the EMTs arrived on the scene, Mr. Floyd was dead. At that moment, these four officers stood up and walked away.

An autopsy was released by the county coroner originally claiming Mr. Floyd died from a cardiopulmonary arrest and had drugs in his system. As time progressed and additional evidence came forward, the city report was appropriately adjusted to list homicide as the cause of death.

In the meantime, the Floyd family asked a private, non-biased coroner to run another biopsy, which showed Mr. Floyd died due to asphyxiation.

How Did the Country Respond to the Killing of George Floyd?

George Floyd’s Death Opens Communications About Race at Work3As the news continued to discuss these 8 minutes and 46 seconds without mentioning charges against the police officers, the United States citizens mobilized. Peaceful protests broke out across the country. Philadelphia, New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Louisville, and Camden, NJ were a few of the many places that hosted protests against police brutality. While daily protests continue throughout our country, history will look back and recall the past two weeks as encompassing the largest global protests known to man, including engagement across all 50 state and 19 additional countries.

Protesters chanted “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice, No Peace” as they marched towards City Hall. In many towns, the police officers marched and knelt in unity. Still, many officers chose to ignore the protestors’ cries, further igniting the flames.

Then came the riots, Cities are being burned to the ground. Stores are being looted. And for some, the message is getting lost in the chaos.

However, for others, the message is loud and clear. People in this country want justice, not just for George, but for all black lives that have been lived in fear simply because of the color of their skin.

Were Charges Ever Brought Against the Officers?

The original charges against the officer who murdered Mr. Floyd was 3rd degree murder and assault. As a result of the protests, and additional evidence which surfaced, the city agreed to conduct a deeper investigation.

Finally, on June 3, 2020, the officers were charged. The officer who murdered Mr. Floyd was charged with 2nd-degree manslaughter. The remaining officers who stood and watched were charged with aiding and abetting.

The fight continues, and now comes the hard work. Every citizen in the country needs to begin to make a difference. Whether you sit at the dinner table and teach your children about systemic racism or start the conversations at work, it is time to make the long-term change this country desperately needs.

How Will Employee and Employer Relationships Be Affected by George Floyd’s Death?

If the days after George Floyd’s death taught us anything, they taught us that we need to listen to one another. There is a problem with systemic racism in American. This problem is deeper than police brutality against black men and women. It is deeper than court injustices for black crime victims.

This problem is in our workplaces, homes, schools, and any place where more than one person with more than one idea can gather.

When it comes to the workplace, the lines of communication must spring open wider than ever before. Employees must feel comfortable reporting issues of race discrimination. Moreover, they must feel comfortable stating something makes them uncomfortable or is offensive. And ultimately, their colleagues need to be emboldened and comfortable in coming forward as witnesses to unlawful misconduct.

Employers must be willing to have the conversations that have been swept under the rug for so many years. It is not just about avoiding race discrimination. It is about creating a diverse work environment that celebrates all people, as opposed to trying to make it all blend together.

This discussion must go beyond affirmative action. It is not about hiring more races in the office. It is not about the institutional need to appoint more races into positions of power with a company. These practices may go further to flame the fire, rather than decrease institutional racial tensions at work.

Employers need to be prepared to create open lines of communication while making it clear that a workplace is not a zone for political commentary. Policies and procedures to prevent internal racial conflict and protests must not only be in place but enforced. Setting acceptable boundaries to allow free speech without taking away another’s rights to an opinion will help ease the transition into the new world of confronting system racism head on.

What Can You Do to Help Race Relations in the Workplace?

First, remember that there are more than two races. Conversations about race in the workplace cannot be limited to black and white. To properly discuss racism at work, you must include all races in the conversation.

The next step is to analyze your work environment and devise a list of concerns regarding race relations and institutional racism. Once again, this process is not about race discrimination. It is about race relations and diversity in the office and between people working together.

During this process, you may want to ask your management team, supervisors, and employer to devise the list they see as well. It is likely their lists, and your list will be different in many ways. However, those differences may further open the lines of communications to create solutions.

Devise your questions and begin the challenging quest to eliminate, or at least significantly reduce, racism in the workplace. Your questions will relate directly to the results of your analysis. However, be prepared to meet a difference of opinion. Use that difference to discuss your concerns further and educate others on the basis for your feelings and concerns.

Encourage employees to be open to the differences of opinions. Remember, as an employer, you must highlight the idea that it is a conversation, not a lecture or a list of demands. The idea is to come to the table and allow for real change.

As an employer, you can begin the process of reviewing and appropriately revising your policies and procedures around race, racism, and diversity in the workplace. Create a section regarding open communication and expected procedures to ensure a full debate does not become the center of the collective workers’ attention.

Employers can allow meeting times and space to discuss issues as employees see them and work as a team to discover a solution for the problem. Having an open forum allows employees to see that everyone in the office is in this process together.

Is It Reasonable to Expect Real Change at Work?

Change takes time. However, if the killing of George Floyd and the resulting protests have taught us anything, it is that more people are ready to listen. You cannot expect the change to occur overnight.

The conversations may be difficult. But they are necessary. Just remember, be open and willing to hear everyone’s concerns, even if they are different from your own.

Keep in mind, some people will not change. They will make their comments behind closed doors, in the hopes no one hears. These individuals need to be brought to task and told this behavior is part of the problem. Make it a point to notify management, HR supervisors, and others about the continued issues and how these issues affect you and others at work.

The problem will not go away tomorrow. It may never really go away. However, if the lines of communication are open, the problem can be significantly reduced.

When All Else Fails, Legal Help Is Available.

While you may curb some issues of racism in the workplace, racial discrimination will still occur. When racial discrimination occurs, you need legal help to seek justice.

The compassionate racial discrimination attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group can help. Contact us at (800) 807-2209.

About Derek Smith

Attorney Derek T. Smith is an experienced sexual harassment & discrimination law litigator who has particular experience in the areas of workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful termination, civil rights litigation, employment law and civil litigation.

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