How Diverse Perspectives Can Further Business Goals During a PandemicJune 1, 2020 – Article
In the last three months, businesses have become concerned not only with the liability to which they may be exposed from cases involving COVID-19, but also with their ability to get their business done during uncertain economic times. One resource upon which business should call, now more than ever, is its diverse workforce. Diverse employees and workers contribute to the workplace in “normal” times, but even more so when businesses are navigating unchartered territory in the COVID-19 and post COVID-19 world.
Personal experience informs and educates a person’s response to a problem and problem-solving abilities. Therefore, employees and workers who have experienced situations that are the same as or similar to those at issue are better able to understand, evaluate, and develop a plan for resolution.
Employees who are working parents (usually mothers) or caring for elderly parents or disabled children (again, usually women) can assist their businesses in understanding the difficulties of getting the business of the business done while also getting the business of family life done. Diverse employees can provide unique perspectives and ideas about the businesses’ offerings of flexible work schedules, reduction in hours benefits, and work from home policies. By consulting diverse employees and workers on issues related to their own needs as caregivers, businesses may be able to avoid lawsuits related to claims brought by other employees.
Additionally, employees who are working parents are oftentimes more adept at working under situations of high stress, such as the current pandemic. In fact, research suggests that working parents are actually more productive than those workers who do not have children, in part because of the “stress” of limited time to accomplish two distinct jobs. Working parents can multitask, are familiar with working odd hours, and use time efficiently in order to tend to the needs of their children as well as their employer. After all, working parents were working early mornings and late nights in order to accommodate pick up and drop off, extracurricular activities, and doctor’s appointments long before this pandemic began. Parents know better than anyone that time is money. During this odd time where the workforce is predominately working from home, calling upon these abilities and skills can save companies time and money.
Parents are not the only employees whose diversity can benefit businesses. Employees who are part of communities that have been disparately impacted by COVID-19 bring unique perspectives to their businesses. COVID-19 has had a disparate impact on communities of racial and ethnic minorities. There has also been a disparate impact on individuals from low socioeconomic and rural communities.  Members of the LGBTQ community have also seen increased exposure, economic disparities, and barriers to care related to COVID-19. This is in part because these communities do not have access to high quality healthcare and/or are unable to follow Centers for Disease guidelines due to the nature of their jobs.
Employees who are members of the communities hit hardest by COVID-19 are familiar with the issues plaguing these communities and can bring a level of empathy that other employees cannot bring. Employees familiar with the vulnerabilities of these communities can advise their businesses on how to better serve these communities as employers and, as businesses, to provide a product or service that is both useful and obtainable by them. They can also help their employers recognize the implicit bias some employees have against others related to COVID-19 issues and challenges. Developing a corporate culture that respects and embraces differences will make the company much more appealing to the diverse jury that will decide any lawsuits that the business may face.
Employees with different perspectives and vantage points bring experience and skill that businesses need during the emerging challenges associated with new work practices and legal procedures. Consequently, diversity and inclusion should remain paramount to businesses throughout the pandemic. The goals are to promote progress regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or otherwise and to grow the business, even in these unprecedented times.
Hawkins Parnell & Young's national litigation team is helping businesses across the United States navigate unprecedented legal challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit our COVID-19 Resource Center for the latest insights and guidance.
 Hill, C., Why Parents May Make Better Employees, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-parents-may-make-better-employees-2015-08-14 (2015) (citing to Krapf, M., et al., Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Parenthood and Productivity of Highly Skilled Labor: Evidence from the Groves of Academe (2014)).
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 in Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/racial-ethnic-minorities.html
 American Heart Association News, Far from Immune, rural areas face unique COVID-19 challenges, https://www.heart.org/en/news/2020/04/30/far-from-immune-rural-areas-face-unique-covid-19-challenges (April 20, 2020).
 Whittington, C., et al., Human Rights Campaign Foundation, The Lives & Livelihoods of Many in the LGBTQ Community Are at Risk Amidst COVID-19 Crisis, https://assets2.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/COVID19-IssueBrief-032020-FINAL.pdf?_ga=2.254262920.1077262451.1590681989-386686036.1590681989.
 Garfield, et al., Kaiser Family Foundation, Double Jeopardy: Low Wage Workers at Risk for Health and Financial Implications of COVID-19, https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/double-jeopardy-low-wage-workers-at-risk-for-health-and-financial-implications-of-covid-19/ (April 29, 2020)