Happy Birthday, tHRive!

Today is a big day!  Today, tHRive Law & Consulting turns one.  In just the past year:

Human resources and employment law are ever-changing and exciting.  Our work touches nearly everyone, making it incredibly meaningful and challenging.  This is why I love it.  I can’t think of another area of business or law I’d rather be in.

tHRive Law & Consulting made it through one of the most significant milestones of any start-up – the first year.  I could not have done it without the support of so many and the confidence of my HR tribe.  For that, I am eternally grateful.  Thank you!

Now, onto the challenges of year two!

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Mr. Damore’s Folly

Yesterday, Google terminated a Googler who wrote a “manifesto” against “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.”  This is not surprising.  That said, the belief that Google only did so because of its “politically correct monoculture,” either fails to see the significant problems in the memo or intentionally glosses over them because of the hatred of political correctness.  Either way, we have some things to talk about.

Argh!  Stereotypes

James Damore’s memo has some jaw-dropping gender stereotypes about women (and a few about minorities).  They are more agreeable, women gravitate towards people-issues rather than coding, women don’t measure success the same way men do, women are not as ambitious, among others.  These stereotypes are woefully exaggerated.  Adam Grant, a Wharton Professor of Management and Psychology, wrote a great piece on the studies showing many of the stereotypes Mr. Damore cited and relied upon are not true.

We’ve known for a long time that stereotyping is bad.  It leads to discrimination, and discrimination leads to lawsuits and bad (sometimes really bad) PR.  Retaining Mr. Damore would have meant that Google could be on the hook for any discrimination he could have a hand in whether that discrimination occurred in the past or future.  Since Google (like many other employers) interviews in teams, this is a liability and not a small one.  (Not to mention the significant gender discrimination action Google is currently fighting with the OFCCP… but I digress.)

Argh!  Political Correctness

It is totally okay to dislike political correctness.  It is totally okay to define political correctness as someone telling a half truth or failing to speak plainly.  Political correctness is not using shortcuts – like inappropriate and untrue stereotypes – to make a point.  It is not okay to say that stereotypes are simply true and we should all just “get over it” in the name of ending political correctness.  How Mr. Damore couched his message told his co-workers that they are less than, that they will never be as good as him, that they have a place but it isn’t here.  That is never a message anyone (employee, employer, human) should send.


Mr. Damore is right about one thing – an effective workplace has everybody.  The individuals and organizations that buy products and services incorporate everybody, so we should reflect the world around us.  That is what diversity and inclusion initiatives are designed to do, bring and keep everyone into the workplace.  Sometimes, we focus efforts on a particular group that is underrepresented because they are underrepresented.  Sometimes, we mind our own business as to what bathroom people are using.  Sometimes, we make an effort to hear the voices of others.  (Insert “rising tide floats all boats” quote.)  We try to include everybody not only because it is the right thing to do, but it is the best business decision to make.

Mr. Damore’s naiveté (and arguably something else) has gotten in the way of this.  He’s right, we have to make room for conservative, liberal, libertarian, socialist, and every other point on the political spectrum.  But we do this because it’s good for business.  Google’s own research shows that teams of different people – different thought processes, different personality types, different genders – make better teams when they work to make sure everyone feels psychologically safe.   We know that having diverse perspectives mean we make better decisions, we develop better products, we do better.

It’s what every employer should be trying to do.

Mr. Damore told Bloomberg that he was fired for advancing gender stereotypes, which he unmistakably did in his memo by stating them as truths.  The correct response was to terminate him.  Mr. Damore told a New York Times reporter that he will likely take legal action over his termination.  Nevermind the fact that there is no such thing as “free speech” in the workplace.

P.S.  I am raising two white men.  I understand the feeling that they might not get to participate in certain activities because they are white boys.  But that is nothing – nothing – compared to the decades, centuries, that women and minorities have been locked or pushed out.  My guys just have more competition.  Competition is truly a capitalist principle.  So, bring it on!


Photo by João Silas on Unsplash

Post-Election Knowledge & Action

So it’s over.  While employment lawyers are spit-balling what President-Elect Trump will do, here’s what I know:

  • As a candidate, his tweets would render him ineligible for employment according to recruiters.

Regardless of how you voted, this matters. Discrimination and harassment are against the law even if the makeup of the EEOC changes.  (If Commissioner Lipnic is appointed Labor Secretary, President-Elect Trump will be able to fill three vacancies in the next two years).  Employers must combat discrimination or face costly investigations, litigation, and the PR nightmares that accompany them.

During the election, employers struggled with how to handle political conversations in the workplace given the negative rhetoric.  After the election, the struggle continues.  Respect, tolerance, and the work should and will continue to be the focus.

This focus is important, but finding the right messaging is hard.  Tim Cook’s letter to Apple employees following the election embraced all of the tech giant’s employees and encouraged unity.  Grubhub’s CEO asked employees who believed in the discriminatory rhetoric of Trump’s campaign to resign after first being criticized for what appeared to be a request that all Trump voters resign.   Each employer must find, and then strike, the right tone for its own culture.

I’ve spent the last three days struggling to understand why the friends and family I love and admire could look past the racism, sexism, bigotry, and cruelty to vote for Donald Trump.  Their votes struck a deep and sincere fear in so many, including me.  I have found solace in two things: (1) my little men know how to treat everyone with respect and embrace our differences, and (2) many employers know to do the same things.

Now, all of us, including those voters who looked past the nastiness even though it doesn’t fit their own beliefs, need speak out against the racism, the sexism, and the bigotry to have a constructive, empathetic conversation about what this election means for our workplaces and our country.





Yes, Compliance is Sexy

About six months ago, I used the hashtag #complianceissexy during a Minnesota Recruiters event.  The wonderful Jennifer McClure was discussing how recruiters have started using Snapchat as a way to reach candidates.  Now, Snapchat makes employment lawyers quake in their boots.  Because snaps supposedly disappear, we lawyers get anxious because the maintenance of recruiting records is something the EEOC will sue over.  So I advised recruiters to “Keep those snaps please!”


Naturally, some in the audience gave me whole body eye-rolls.  “Oh Kate” they said, like I’m squashing all the fun.  Trust me, I’m really trying not to.  If Snapchat will help you reach more candidates, if it increases applicant engagement, do it.  I won’t say no, in fact, I’ll try to help you figure out how to do it!  But the eye-rolls illustrate how people feel about compliance.

Compliance is nasty word to many.  It means “No.”  To me, compliance is not a “no.”  It’s a part of a larger picture, a way to reach goals that are good for business both from business and legal perspectives.  Compliance should never be the only reason a business does something nor should it be a hurdle a business can’t overcome.  Instead, we should look at compliance as something a part of making business better.

Take diversity initiatives for example.  Gone are the days that a company launches a diversity initiative just because it’s a federal contractor.  Instead, we all know that having a diverse workforce is good business, and the more we can reflect our audience, the higher our profits will get.  The business reason – higher profits – is a better reason for having a strong diversity program than simple compliance with OFCCP regulations.

The same is true for pay equity.  While I and others strongly encourage employers to conduct pay audits with a new EEO-1 looming, compliance isn’t the only reason to do so.  Do employees feel they are paid a fair wage?  Are you paying employees too low such that you have retention or recruiting issues?  Do opportunities exist to adjust pay structures to promote business goals (e.g. structuring sales comp plans to encourage new business development)?  All of these noncompliance reasons are just as pressing as preparations for the EEO-1 in March 2018.  A good pay audit will address these issues and provide help to adjust compensation systems to meet compliance and business objectives.

So yes, compliance is sexy.