Diversity & Inclusion Institute conference to feature Second City

A branch of the comedy empire that helped shape American theater for nearly 50 years will use the power of improv to demonstrate the benefits of greater workplace diversity and inclusion during the commercial insurance industry’s Diversity & Inclusion Institute Conference in Chicago this September.

Second City Works, the B2B side of The Second City, the world’s leading comedy theater and school of improvisation, will showcase its groundbreaking Diversity & Inclusion programming at an interactive workshop featuring comedic scenes to educate and inform about diversity, and bring to life the practice of improv to build skills for more inclusive teams.

The Second City Works performance on Wednesday, Sept. 28, is being held in conjunction with Lloyd’s of London’s Dive In–the Festival for Diversity and Inclusion in Insurance, and will be free and open to commercial insurance industry employees throughout the Chicago area.

The paid portion of the two-day conference, which continues on Thursday, Sept. 29, will feature Howard Ross, founder and chief learning officer of Cook Ross Inc., on “Managing in a Time of Fear.” Mr. Ross, an internationally known diversity training expert and author, will help insurance industry executives develop a clear sense of how events of the past few years—including the recent police shootings, homophobia and concerns about immigration–are influencing their employees. They also will learn about the science behind fear so that they can adopt effective intervention strategies.

Eric Alva, the first American soldier wounded during Operation Iraqi Freedom, will address his battle to overcome his injuries and the difficulties he encountered after leaving the military and coming out as gay. From learning to walk with a prosthetic, to his desire to continue his education and obtain his degree, Mr. Alva inspires audiences to persevere by demonstrating how he conquered such obstacles.

Also during the conference, a panel of insurance industry CEOs will discuss the business case for greater diversity and inclusion, publicly pledging to support efforts to foster greater diversity both within their organizations and throughout the industry.

Other sessions will include:

  • D+I considerations in client engagement
  • Insurance regulator focus on driving diversity in the industry
  • Demonstrations of technology designed to facilitate diversity and inclusion.
  • The impact of “covering” at work on employee productivity
  • The latest D&I research conducted by the Institute and in conjunction with the Families & Work Institute
  • Executive Insights – short, inspirational speeches by industry leaders from Ryan Specialty Group, The Hartford, Willis Towers Watson and Zurich

To review the complete agenda and to register for the Absolute Inclusion Conference, visit http://conferences.businessinsurance.com/conference/diversity-inclusion-institute/2016/agenda.

The Absolute Inclusion Leadership Conference is the inaugural event of Business Insurance’s Diversity & Inclusion Institute, which was launched last December to promote and advance diversity and inclusion throughout the commercial insurance industry. For more information about the Institute, visit www.diversityinclusioninstitute.com.

Breaking EPL News!

In Hively v. Ivy Tech Cmty. Coll., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 13746, **54-56 (7th Cir. July 28, 2016), the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision granting defendant’s motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s Title VII sexual orientation claim based on the doctrine of stare decisis – relying on the jurisdiction’s precedent determining that Title VII does not protect against same-sex discrimination.  In doing so, however, the court made clear its reservations, noting the incongruity whereby a same-sex couple can marry legally in the United States on a Saturday and be fired on Monday for having done so.  The court’s conclusion is instructive:

Perhaps the writing is on the wall. It seems unlikely that our society can continue to condone a legal structure in which employees can be fired, harassed, demeaned, singled out for undesirable tasks, paid lower wages, demoted, passed over for promotions, and otherwise discriminated against solely based on who they date, love, or marry. The agency tasked with enforcing Title VII does not condone it … many of the federal courts to consider the matter have stated that they do not condone it … and this court undoubtedly does not condone it…. But writing on the wall is not enough. Until the writing comes in the form of a Supreme Court opinion or new legislation, we must adhere to the writing of our prior precedent, and therefore, the decision of the district court is AFFIRMED.

Viability of Sexual Orientation Discrimination Claims: Venue Driven?

This is the first post by PLUS Blog contributor Jonathan Evan Goldberg, a litigation and employment law partner at FisherBroyles, LLP. An experienced trial lawyer and frequent public speaker, he has represented corporations, LLCs, partnerships, non-profits, law firms, and boards of directors, as well as officers, executives, attorneys, and others, in all aspects of complex commercial litigation, employment litigation, arbitration, and employment law.

In addition, Mr. Goldberg serves as the President of the non-profit Cherub Improv and regularly teaches lawyers, entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, and members of the professional liability industry the basic principles of improv comedy, including teamwork, embracing creativity, listening, supporting others’ ideas, feeling confident, and thinking quickly on one’s feet.


More often than not, the choice of forum matters.  In a recent decision out of the Fourth Circuit, Hinton v. Virginia Union University, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 60487 (E.D. Va. May 4, 2016), the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia granted the Defendant University’s motion to dismiss the Plaintiff’s claim for discrimination in large part because, the Court held, “sexual orientation” is not a protected class under Title VII.  Unfortunately for the Plaintiff, Virginia state law also does not prohibit “sexual orientation” discrimination and, thus, he could not plead a state law violation.

A different result would likely have occurred had the Plaintiff worked and/or suffered the alleged discrimination in New York.  Although the Second Circuit also does not recognize “sexual orientation” as a protected class under Title VII, the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) explicitly prohibits discrimination and retaliation based on sexual orientation.  See NYCHRL, Admin. Code § 8-107.  Indeed, in Roberts v UPS, 115 F. Supp. 3d 344 (E.D.N.Y. 2015), Judge Weinstein of the Eastern District of New York upheld the jury’s determination that UPS was liable under the NYCHRL for creating a hostile work environment and for retaliation based on the lesbian Plaintiff’s sexual orientation.  In so doing, the Court upheld the jury’s award of $100,000 (compensatory and punitive damages combined), 115 F. Supp. 3d at *3, and very recently granted an additional award of $150,000 for attorneys’ fees and costs.  Roberts v. UPS, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48040, *1, 2016 WL 1441318 (E.D.N.Y. April 6, 2016).

Faced with the reality that a particular venue will be better for one of the parties in these types of cases, companies should take the time to revisit the dispute resolution, forum selection, and choice of law clauses contained in their employee handbooks and employment and independent contractor agreements.

Even more importantly, companies should consider implementing anti-harassment and anti-retaliation workplace training, a low cost measure designed to nurture a supportive work environment and preempt such claims in the first place.


The PLUS Midwest Chapter is hosting an educational event, Gender Identity Issues – Changing Ideas, Changing the Workplace, on September 14 in Chicago. Don’t miss it!