Join the community celebration of Juneteenth, commemorating the end of slavery in the United States on June 19. The event has been organized by Cecil Adams and the African-American Mutual Assistance Network, and is the second annual Juneteenth in La Crosse. The day’s events include participation by the La Crosse Police Department and the La Crosse Historical Society. Watch for further details as the event approaches.
On June 16th, the City of La Crosse Human Rights Commission will hold a community listening session focusing on barriers and discrimination faced by Latinos in the La Crosse community. The event will be held at the Greater River Vineyard Church, 114 6th St. N., between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.
This will be the third listening session held by the Commission since September, 2015. The first two focused on the African-American and LGBT community respectively. La Crosse Attorney Fabio Burgos, the Commission’s chair, says that these sessions inform the Commissions work, providing a sense from the community about what they feel are the most pressing issues that they face in terms of discrimination.
“We are still in the process of determining what the most effective use of the commission will be,” says Burgos. “The consensus is that we would like to focus on a few issues thoroughly rather than try to address everything in a piecemeal fashion. An example of one thing we have focused on is getting reports from the County Juvenile Justice Task Force on steps being taken to address the disproportionate minority juvenile arrest rate in La Crosse.”
This particular listening session also has a sense of urgency because of national politics. “Given what we are seeing on a national level, where prominent individuals and institutions are using the Latin-American population as scapegoats for economic hardships, I think this is an excellent time to hear from Latinos in our city and find out what obstacles they have encountered and hopefully get ideas of steps to address those difficulties,” says Burgos.
This listening session provides an excellent opportunity for our community to express and hear concerns related to discrimination and barriers, and to better understand the work being undertaken by the Commission. The Human Rights Commission directly addresses allegations of discrimination in housing and access to facilities in La Crosse, Burgos says, “so it is important that the community is aware that a resource exists to address these complaints. On a broader scale, the Commission’s directive is to collaborate with other community organizations to work to address discrimination in the City of La Crosse. It’s semi-unusual for a City this size to have created such a commission, so I look at that as a positive. There is much work to be done, but recognizing a need for an organization on a City level that is devoted to addressing discrimination is an important first step.”
Please attend the session if you can, and spread the word about this important opportunity for listening, learning, and addressing discrimination in our community.
We had a good turnout, and great conversation, on the topic of religious diversity in the workplace for our May Lunch and Learn. In addition to the legal issues around accommodating and avoiding discrimination on the basis of religious diversity, our speakers reminded us to consider the interpersonal dimensions of religious diversity, and the corresponding need to be thoughtful and intentional about inclusivity, and about challenging stereotypes. Ahmed El-Afandi asked the group who among us knew a Muslim, worked with a Muslim, shared a meal with a Muslim, or spent time with a Muslim person in our homes. So many hands were raised. Religious diversity is part of life in the greater La Crosse Area, and embracing this diversity enriches our social and working lives.
As with other areas of diversity, research also shows the business benefits of transparency, fairness, and inclusivity. A recent article in The Guardian cited a survey by the Tanebaum organization showing that “companies that don’t provide information about their religious discrimination policies are more likely to have staff seeking new jobs than workers at companies that do. Job satisfaction is another key issue: workers at companies that don’t offer flexible hours for religious observance are more than twice as likely to say they don’t look forward to coming to work.”
What steps should employers take to welcome and accommodate people of various organized religions as well as those individuals with what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission refers to as “sincerely held religious, ethical, or moral beliefs?” Once again, the answer to the question of accommodation concerns workplace culture and policy, and improving both depends upon having the conversation about people’s needs. The two most common workplace complaints regarding lack of accommodations for religious people, especially religious minorities, are the lack of food options at workplace events, and the prohibition on wearing religious garments. (Prohibitions of this type are generally in violation of employment law.)
A proactive strategy taken by the law firm Ernst and Young can be instructive: the company has established “quiet rooms… which are open to all employees to take a quick break, to reflect, pray or even to take medication.” It also plans major religious and cultural holidays into its company calendar for work scheduling, and provides dietary guidance to employees planning company events.
In terms of basic compliance with the law, this helpful article from the EEOC details the meanings of religious accommodation as well as religious discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and the management of conflicts around religious expression in the workplace. For additional resources on inclusivity, check out the work of the Tanebaum organization, dedicated to combating religious prejudice. Please contact the Council if you have further questions or ideas. Let’s keep this conversation going in the La Crosse area.
Are you an advocate for diversity and inclusion in your workplace? Join the Diversity Council for one of two small, informal lunches, July 14 or August 11, to exchange ideas about best practices and connect with others who share your commitment to a more inclusive workplace, while learning from two area diversity and inclusivity leaders.
Nizam Arain, Director of Affirmative Action at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Ricardo Acevedo, District Manager of the Social Security Administration, will informally share their expertise at both events.
Both events will be held at Three Rivers Lodge (inside the Radisson Hotel La Crosse) between 11:30 and 1:00. Registration is required in order to keep the number of participants small. Participants pay for their own lunches. Follow the registration links for the above dates to reserve your spot.
Questions: Contact Jodi Vandenberg-Daves at email@example.com.