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Birmingham Business Journal Interviews Doug Kauffman on Affirmative Action Ruling and DEI Initiatives

In an article published by the Birmingham Business Journal, Doug Kauffman, partner in the firm’s Birmingham office and member of the Labor and Employment Practice, answered questions about the Supreme Court of the United States decision regarding affirmative action and DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) considerations for companies.

The Q&A style article was published in the May 3, 2024 edition. Excerpts of the interview are included below:


Q: How do companies know if they are doing the right thing with DEI and ESG  (Environmental, Social & Governance )initiatives, policies and training?

A: “First, a company must understand what Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Environmental, Social & Governance initiatives are and what they are not. The purpose of DEI and ESG initiatives are not to favor a group over another group, but instead are designed to: (a) ensure that everyone’s differences are appreciated; (b) recognize that past obstacles and barriers may be overcome if an opportunity is provided; and (c) create an environment where everyone can thrive.

Second, the company needs to understand that these initiatives are about everyone and not a particular status.  We all have a role and benefit from them. 

Third, a company’s commitment must be unwavering and based on a solid foundation.  When a company’s commitment is based solely on things like public opinion, politics, or even a trend, its initiatives will suffer from up and down swings that are difficult to sustain and lack credibility.  A company’s initiatives must be based on a mentality that this is the right thing to do, and because of that, external factors will not influence the commitment.”

Q: All of this requires boosting a talent pipeline. How do you recommend we grow talent in Birmingham?

A: We double-down on our commitments to be more diverse, equitable, and inclusive, we work together to share resources and ideas, and we create a safe forum to discuss our challenges.  The most important thing I’ve learned in over 25 years of attempting to be a DEI advocate is the importance of listening, understanding, and attempting to be part of the solution.

Q: What are some tips to help managers and executives monitor developing case law and trends? 

A: Call Doug Kauffman.  Well, they also can ensure that they subscribe to unbiased legal resources that provide accurate descriptions of what the law is and how it is trending.  Training also is paramount to staying current.

Doug was named in the BBJ’s 2024 “Leaders in Diversity” list, highlighting individuals who prioritize diversity and serve as creators and facilitators of innovative DEI initiatives in the metro area. Doug has spent years championing DEI efforts across the Birmingham business community, in the legal industry and within Balch. 

For more than 20 years, Doug has counseled large and small employers, helping them stay up to date on the law, regulations, and best practices with respect to employment compliance. When issues arise in the workplace, Doug provides real-time solutions. He also handles complaints or audits by various government agencies, such as the EEOC, the Department of Labor, and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and he litigates all employment issues in court. Well respected on both sides of the table, Doug is frequently invited to speak at seminars sponsored by government agencies.

Doug is recognized by Chambers USA as one of the nation’s top attorneys in Labor & Employment law, and he has consistently been listed in The Best Lawyers in America®. The BBJ named Doug to be among the Best of the Bar in 2021.