Workplace Culture & Equity Reviews and Investigations

The social justice and #MeToo movements have amplified marginalized voices working to uncover and stop misconduct in the workplace. These movements collectively have led to scores of front-page accounts of internal challenges with race, ethnicity and gender at high-profile corporations and other institutions. In this environment, organizations facing allegations of racial intolerance and bias, sexual harassment, discrimination and other forms of misconduct run the risk of severe reputational damage, economic loss and litigation exposure. The speed and power of social media platforms serve to magnify these risks. When serious cultural allegations surface, organizations should approach these matters conscientiously and as an opportunity to consider whether meaningful institutional enhancements are warranted and, if so, how to enact those and to promote DE&I objectives within the parameters of existing law.


Debevoise has been advising clients on sensitive workplace culture matters for more than two decades, and brings a nuanced and multi-disciplinary approach to risk mitigation and crisis management that strikes the right balance of empathy and doggedness for the truth. We have represented numerous boards, organizations and schools in connection with sensitive investigations, including those involving alleged misconduct by senior leaders, racial intolerance and bias, alleged race-based or other protected-class based discrimination and harassment, and #MeToo allegations. We have also advised clients on mitigating the potential for discrimination or bias stemming from the use of artificial intelligence (“AI”) systems.


Our work in this area continues to expand as we are called upon to advise employers concerning their policies and practices aimed at advancing diversity, equity and inclusion. In this regard, we have helped clients review, develop, and validate DE&I initiatives, conducted racial equity and equal pay audits, and both assisted with bias audits of clients’ AI models, as well as counselled on the institution of governance frameworks to reduce AI discrimination risk.


These matters call on our experience in internal investigations, employment law, executive compensation and employee benefits, data privacy and security, crisis management and criminal prosecutions. They require sound and mature judgment, sensitivity and an understanding of the needs of various constituencies that are affected by misconduct, including discrimination and harassment.


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