The Florida Bar

Diversity Resources

  • Diversity Resources

  • Diversity Leadership Grants

  • Diversity & Inclusion Committee

  • Supreme Court Fairness & Diversity

Florida Bar Issue Papers

Minorities in the Legal Profession

Women in the Law/Gender Bias

Articles, Videos & Reports

2020 This Talk Isn’t Cheap,” Women of Color and White Women Attorneys Find Common Ground, ABA Commission on Women in the Profession
July 2018 How the Florida Bar is Confronting Gender Bias, Forbes
January 2018 Supreme Court clerks are overwhelmingly white and male. Just like 20 years ago, USA Today
July 2017 ‘A Bleak Picture’ for Women Trying to Rise at Law Firms, The New York Times
April 2017 Top Black Lawyers Share Advice with Young Attorneys of Color, Bloomberg Law Big Law Business
November 2016 Thinking Like Google to Increase Diversity in the Legal Profession, CLP Speaker Series, YouTube
August 2016 Hanna Rosin on the ‘End of Men’, A TEDWomen Update Blog
February 2016 CLP Speaker Series – Challenges & Rewards for Women in the Legal Profession, YouTube
2014 Expanding the Pathways to Gender Equality in the Legal Profession, Hannah Brenner (2014), Legal Ethics, 17:2, 261-280
May 2014 How One Law Firm Maintains Gender Balance, Harvard Business Review
March 2014 Female Lawyers Who Dress Too “Sexy” Are Apparently a “Huge Problem” in the Courtroom, Slate
March 2013 The Still-Tolerated Gender Bias in Science, TED Blog Op-Ed
July/August 2012 Why Women Still Can’t Have It All, The Atlantic
2012 “Women in the Legal Profession” Roundtable: Mentoring and Business Development, YouTube
2010 New Data on the Rise of Women, TEDWomen
2010 Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders, TEDWomen
2006 The Right Mentor Matters: Law Firm Associates Speak Up, American Bar Association Perspectives, Volume 14, Number 4

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First District Court of Appeal ADA Procedures

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Florida Supreme Court

Office of the State Courts Administrator

Other Disability Resources

Visit the Florida Supreme Court website to review the filing requirements.

The Florida Courts E-Filing Authority Board website is also available for review.

Enhancing the Accessibility of Electronic Information

Survey on Lawyers with Disabilities: In May 2006, the Disability Independence Group and The Florida Bar administered an online survey of Florida lawyers with disabilities. The purpose was to gather demographics information, analyze barriers for lawyers with disabilities in their profession, collect information on accommodations and technical assistance; and ultimately, create a forum for the exploration of issues, strategies and recommendations to enhance the participation of attorneys with disabilities in Florida’s legal communities, in court and out of court.

Executive Summary – Disability Independence Group Report

Disability Independence Group Report and Recommendations

Florida Court E-Filing Authority Board

Do your filings comply with Disability Law?

Civil litigation bootcamp focuses on minority attorneys

A joint effort by the Florida Hispanic Bar Association and the Virgil Hawkins Florida Chapter National Bar Association during The Florida Bar’s Winter meeting offers attorneys an opportunity to enhance their civil litigation skills. A civil litigation bootcamp is set for January 20 from 9:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Rosen Shingle Creek in…

St. Thomas University College of Law launches Center for Social Justice

Tallahassee attorney Ben Crump and St. Thomas University College of Law recently announced  an initiative to prepare “new and diverse lawyers” to lead the fight for justice. The Benjamin L. Crump Center for Social Justice at the St. Thomas University College of Law will provide innovative programming, symposia, and training to “catalyze the next generation of…

Bondi endows diversity and inclusion scholarship at UF Law

Florida Bar member Brad Bondi committed $100,000 to the University of Florida Levin College of Law to create and  permanently endow a Bradley J. Bondi Diversity & Inclusion Scholarship Fund at the law school. Bondi has been working with school leaders for the past year to support initiatives focused on diversity and inclusion. “Brad’s generous gift will…

‘Path to Unity’ highlights The Florida Bar’s journey to becoming more inclusive

The lives of five pioneering Florida lawyers are being lauded as the Standing Committee on Diversity and Inclusion launched its Path to Unity campaign recently in Jacksonville to highlight The Florida Bar’s journey to becoming more inclusive. “We want to tell the story of the Bar’s journey from its segregated past to the rich, multi-cultural…

Scoon elected president of the Florida League of Women Voters

Cecile M. Scoon vowed to become a lawyer when she was a Harvard undergrad and the university trustees were using legalese to justify investing in Apartheid South Africa. “I decided then and there that I’m never again going to have people that I disagree with try to cover up what they’re doing with a language…

RPPTL works to boost the number of minority lawyers doing estate planning work

A May 8 Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section seminar to encourage minority and diverse lawyers to include estate planning in their practices drew more than 100 participants. The free, all-day, and online seminar followed up on a similar in-person event held in January 2020 (and an earlier one in 2008) and was sponsored…

Program to explore ‘The Importance of Minority Lawyers’ Involvement With The Florida Bar’

The Bar’s Diversity and Inclusion Get Involve Subcommittee will present “The Importance of Minority Lawyers’ Involvement With The Florida Bar” April 15 from noon to 1 p.m. via Zoom. Panelists Andres Oliveros of Oliveros Law, Judge Jessica Costello, and Juliet Roulhac, regional director for corporate external affairs at Florida Power & Light, will discuss their involvement with The Florida Bar, whether…

Appellate Practice Section offers fellowship program for new lawyers

The Appellate Practice Section is taking applications for its subsidized fellowship program aimed at attracting and cultivating young, diverse leadership to the section. One fellowship is awarded each year and the selected attorney fellow will serve a two-year term. Fellows will have the opportunity to gain appellate experience, and, if permitted, take on an appellate…

Committee on Diversity & Inclusion sets ‘Leveling the Playing Field: Leave and Flexible Work Policies Examined’ for March 25

The Florida Bar Committee on Diversity & Inclusion will present Gender Equality Women’s Programming Series, Part III, “Leveling the Playing Field: Leave and Flexible Work Policies Examined” March 25 at noon via Zoom. The conversation will include the benefits of family and medical leave in promoting diversity in the legal profession and explore best practices and their implications for lawyers, bar associations, law…

Goerner becomes first African-American woman elected to the Seminole bench

The recent investiture ceremony for Circuit Judge Donna Goerner marked the first time an African-American woman was elected as a circuit judge in the 18th Circuit. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Peggy Quince spoke at the January 22  ceremony at the Lake Mary High School auditorium. Seminole County’s first African American appointed circuit judge, retired Justice…

FSU Black Law Students Association wins mock trial competition

For the second year in a row, Florida State University College of Law’s Black Law Students Association (BLSA) won first place in the Constance Baker Motley Mock Trial Competition during the Southern Region of the Black Law Students Association’s regional convention. The 2021 meeting took place virtually January 29-31. Seven law school teams participated in…

What does a lawyer look like?

The Palm Beach County Bar Association’s Committee on Diversity and Inclusion has launched a “What A Lawyer Looks Like” campaign to display and highlight the diversity within the PBCBA. The members also share their background stories of what obstacles some of them may have faced as they pursued their law career. The webpage can be…

Smith reflects on 20+ years of professionalism and diversity work

Orlando attorney Larry Smith is concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic is undermining professionalism, diversity, and inclusion efforts that he said are keys to helping the legal profession cope with the crisis. Smith is wrapping up more than 20 years’ combined service on the Bar’s Standing Committee on Professionalism (SCOP) and the former Supreme Court Commission…

Harris serves as state’s first LGBTQ consumer advocate

Afraid of jeopardizing future job prospects, Shenika “Nik” Harris, Florida’s first LGBTQ consumer advocate, remained closeted through Florida State University law school. But Harris, a graduate of the Bar’s Leadership Academy, has seen such a positive shift in attitude in recent years, she’s not sure it would be necessary today. “I felt some concerns, could…

Program will examine the pandemic’s effect on women lawyers

President Dori Foster-Morales and a handful of other prominent practitioners will discuss, “Leveling the Playing Field During the Pandemic: Creative Opportunities for Women Lawyers,” during a November 18 panel discussion. Sponsored by the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, the noon webinar is the first in a Women’s Programming Series created by the Gender Equality Subcommittee. The…

Government Lawyer Section establishes diversity and inclusion panel

The Government Lawyer Section, in keeping with a recent Bar trend, is bolstering its efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. At an October 23 meeting, the Board of Governors approved proposed section bylaw changes that authorize the creation of a diversity and inclusion committee. Government Lawyer Section Chair Jacek Stramski said,…

Diversity and Inclusion Committee readies for its ‘Path to Unity’ campaign

Offers to host the “Path to Unity” campaign — a traveling Florida legal history project that will tell the story of the Bar’s journey from its segregated past to the rich, multi-cultural organization that it is today — poured into the Zoom server as soon as the Diversity and Inclusion Committee convened its October 7…

New Center for Professionalism podcast focuses on the journey of women who become judges

A new podcast focusing on journeys of women lawyers in becoming judges is being offered by The Florida Bar’s Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism. The first issue of “Never Contemplated” went online on September 16 and featured host Administrative Law Judge Hetal Desai interviewing First District Court of Appeal Judge Rachel Nordby about her experiences…

YLD works to promote mental health and wellness and bias elimination education

YLD President Adam White says he is willing to compromise after the Board of Legal Specialization and Education rejected a division proposal to make mental health and wellness and bias elimination credits mandatory within the 33 CLE hours that Bar members must earn every three years. “We are not in any way taking an adverse…

Business Law Section to diversify its education program panels

Underscoring its commitment to diversity, the Business Law Section will soon mandate that its CLE program professional panels include members from underrepresented groups. The new BLS “CLE Diversity Policy,” approved by the executive council September 4, will apply to all CLE programs sponsored or co-sponsored by the section after January 1, according to BLS Chair…

#YLDisMe campaign defies the stereotype of what a lawyer is and does

Anisha Patel and Iris Elijah overcame longer odds than most to become successful lawyers, and both have endured their fair share of slights. It would usually happen when they arrived early for a hearing or deposition. “I’ve walked in with a male colleague of mine, both dressed to the nines, and I’ve been mistaken as…

Florida’s law schools come together to address racial justice

In light of “longstanding and recent acts of racist violence,” the deans of the 12 law schools in Florida have formed the Florida Law Schools’ Consortium for Racial Justice (FLSCRJ), according to a press release from Stetson University College of Law. “This collective will leverage the strengths and educational roles of every law school in the…

Business Law Section strengthens its Diversity Fellowship Program

The Business Law Section, one of the Bar’s largest, is marking a 50th anniversary by focusing on COVID-19 recovery — and strengthening a Diversity Fellowship Program, said newly installed Chair Leyza Blanco. “It’s helping feed the pipeline of leadership of the section, and it’s helping us really develop greater diversity,” Blanco said. “And it’s really…

Diversity in the profession: Changing the narrative of Asian Pacific American lawyers

Changing the narrative of Asian Pacific American lawyers by increasing diversity in the legal profession was the focus of an interactive webinar May 27 in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Judge Natasha DePrimo shared her experiences and discussed what perpetuates stereotypes and how to overcome them. The free webinar was co-sponsored by the…

Seminar focuses on engaging minority lawyers in estate planning work

Organizers of a minority lawyers’ seminar were worried that not enough has changed since “Introduction to Will and Trust Drafting” drew only a handful of participants when it debuted in 2007. Considering that the January 2020 revival registered 140 — and more than a dozen lawyers were turned away at the door — the organizers…

ABA honors Brown as a diversity trailblazer

FLORIDA BAR MEMBER DONISE E. BROWN, second from the left, is one of the five “diversity trailblazers” across the country honored with 2020 Spirit of Excellence Award by the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession. These awards celebrate the efforts and accomplishments of lawyers who excel in their professional settings; who…

Florida Hispanic Bar Association aims to launch this summer

After several years’ gestation, the Florida Hispanic Bar Association, aimed at being an umbrella for existing local Hispanic bars, plans to launch this summer. At an organizational meeting February 6 during The Florida Bar’s Winter Meeting, founders worked on organizational plans and sent out a call for volunteers for the nascent statewide organization. “Everything fell…

Committee on Diversity and Inclusion aims to help Bar sections diversify

Bar sections intent on enhancing diversity may want to take a cue from the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section’s Fellowship Program. At the Bar’s Winter Meeting in Orlando, the RPPTL’s Michael Gelfand discussed with the Bar’s Standing Committee on Diversity and Inclusion the section’s efforts to attract and cultivate young, diverse leadership. “Our…

Diverse teams help build business success

If this were a basketball game, Bemetra Simmons would have nailed a bunch of three pointers driving home her point that diversity is not just a desirable goal, it’s smart business. The former college point guard passed out a bunch of sports analogies, lobbed in some humor, and charged straight into some touchy perceptions as…

Williams: When executives embrace diversity, anything is possible

Law firms and corporations that ignore diversity in hiring and promotion not only rob themselves of talent, they risk becoming irrelevant in a rapidly changing society. That’s just one message that keynote speaker Sherry D. Williams, a corporate attorney and University of Miami Law School graduate, gave Florida Bar members who attended the Henry T….

15th Circuit Bars host Legal Diversity and Inclusion Summit

ON INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY, a coalition of the three minority voluntary bars in the 15th Circuit – the F. Malcolm Cunningham Bar Association, Palm Beach County Hispanic Bar Association, and the Palm Beach Chapter of Florida Association for Women Lawyers – hosted an inaugural Legal Diversity and Inclusion Summit. Participants included leaders of voluntary bars,…

Why are women leaving the law?

In an age when women are graduating from law school at the same rate as men, why are they leaving the profession in such high numbers by age 50 and what can be done about it? These are questions Miami’s Hilarie Bass studied during her term as ABA president. The co-president of Greenberg Traurig, whose…

Pettis wins Latimer Diversity Award

Pettis wins Latimer Diversity Award Eugene Pettis of Ft. Lauderdale was awarded the Henry T. Latimer Inclusion Award at The Florida Bar’s 2018 Annual Convention. The award was given to Pettis for his dedication toward pushing for advances in diversity and inclusion programs within the legal profession.  The Florida Bar’s diversity and inclusion efforts push to encourage participation and opportunities to…

Why are women lawyers leaving the profession?

For almost 30 years, women have been graduating from law school in roughly equal numbers to men, yet they are leaving the profession in droves. Why? To answer that question, ABA President Hilarie Bass of Miami launched “Achieving Long-Term Careers for Women in Law,” an initiative that features research on legal careers using life-cycle models…

Women attorneys make up 47% of Bar committee appointments

Women attorneys make up 47% of Bar committee appointments 52% of leadership positions are now held by women lawyers The trend of pursuing diversity in making appointments to Bar committees and leadership positions on those committees is continuing with incoming Bar President Michelle Suskauer. Suskauer recently completed appointments to Bar committees for the 2018-19 Bar…

Panel works to change attitudes about gender and diversity issues

Panel works to change attitudes about gender and diversity issues ‘If we are going to be making a change, this is the time to do it’ Senior Editor The Florida Bar’s Special Committee on Gender Bias and Diversity is shifting to oversight as a subcommittee gets down to the nitty gritty of implementing a 12-point…

Symposium focuses on biases

Symposium focuses on biases ‘Learn the latest in how bias affects the legal system’ A symposium offering participants a chance to focus on gender bias, implicit bias, and a multicultural inter-disciplinary approach to addressing bias and diversity issues will be offered November 10 at the Hilton Orlando at Lake Buena Vista. The gathering is the…

Gender on the agenda

As soon as Michael Higer walked into the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion at the Bar’s Annual Convention, Chair Brittany Maxey-Fisher gave him a shout out for wearing the “Inclusion” lapel pin in his portrait on the cover of the Journal. The huge committee, representing a full spectrum of diverse lawyers, broke into applause. Higer,…

12-point plan aims to eradicate bias

12-point plan aims to eradicate bias ‘The report sets forth specific actions that the Bar can initiate to address gender inequalities’ Senior Editor The Florida Bar Special Committee on Gender Bias’ final report, with a dozen recommendations, has been received by the Board of Governors. President-elect Michael Higer, who chaired the panel, presented the findings…

Higer boosts the number of women lawyers on Florida Bar committees

Higer boosts the number of women lawyers on Florida Bar committees Michael Higer not only served as chair of the Special Committee on Gender Bias, but he is president-elect of The Florida Bar. So while choosing lawyers to serve on committees, as well as leaders as chairs and vice chairs, Higer was focused on appointing…

Trying to bridge the gender gap

Trying to bridge the gender gap ‘Women start off in equal numbers in most areas of private practice, in general. Most of the problems come at the retention level.’ Senior Editor Here’s the No. 1 phone call Linda Bray Chanow, executive director of the Center for Women in Law, receives from women law partners: “He’s…

Budget, gender bias/diversity, parental leave on board’s agenda

Budget, gender bias/diversity, parental leave on board’s agenda Reviewing objections to the Bar’s 2017-18 budget, getting a report from the Gender Bias/Diversity Committee, and voting on a proposed procedural rule on granting continuances for parental leave will occupy the Bar Board of Governors at its May 26 meeting in Key West. It will be the…

Gender bias report still in the works

Gender bias report still in the works The Bar’s Gender Bias/Diversity Committee should have recommendations ready by the May Board of Governors meeting, according to President-elect Michael Higer, who chairs the panel. He told the board last month that the committee held a two-day symposium with national experts in late February and met again in…

Diversity panel wants to expand opportunities

Diversity panel wants to expand opportunities The Bar’s Standing Committee on Diversity and Inclusion is pursuing a variety of initiatives as it seeks to expand opportunities for all Florida lawyers. “We want to ensure the Bar will reflect the demographics of the state, that we develop opportunities for community involvement, and to make leadership roles…

Higer leads committee to combat gender and diversity bias

A special committee looking at gender bias and diversity issues in the legal profession will make recommendations to the Board of Governors at its December meeting, according to President-elect Michael Higer. Higer told the Board of Governors at its July Miami Beach meeting that President Bill Schifino tapped him to lead the special committee studying…

Care to improve the conversation?

Kim Cook, Sedgwick’s Miami office managing partner, was proud to be sworn in as the first female president of the Miami Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates. At the recent swearing-in ceremony, some man sitting in the back of the room belted out this joke: “I thought you were a waitress!” “Funny, right?”…

YLD to highlight women’s issues in April

YLD to highlight women’s issues in April The Florida Bar Young Lawyer’s Division has scheduled several programs during the month of April in an effort to support and recognize the achievements of women in the legal profession. The YLD recently disseminated a survey that revealed 43 percent of female lawyer respondents under the age of…

YLD surveys young women lawyers

YLD surveys young women lawyers Associate Editor “I feel that older men do not take me seriously no matter how professional I am.” * * * “I have left a firm where I was told by my managing partner that I did not have to worry about making money and moving ahead because I would…

Judges receive anti-bias training

More than 20 state court judges recently attended a training session to learn how implicit biases can result in explicit behavior that may effect fairness in the courts. Judge Dawn P. Fields, diversity coordinator for the Seventh Circuit, hosted the CJE Fairness & Diversity Conference at the Beach Safety Headquarters in Daytona Beach. Thirteenth Circuit…

YLD to recognize the achievements of women

YLD to recognize the achievements of women Associate Editor To celebrate the accomplishments of women lawyers, the Young Lawyers Division’s Commission on Women in the Profession recently instituted the Outstanding Woman Lawyer of Achievement Award. The award recognizes the achievements of a female attorney or judge who excels in her field; possesses an excellent reputation…

‘Meritocracy and diversity’ are key to judicial legitimacy

‘Meritocracy and diversity’ are key to judicial legitimacy The Florida Bar Board of Governors has unanimously approved the report and recommendations of the President’s Special Task Force to Study Enhancement of Diversity in the Judiciary and the Judicial Nominating Commissions. The report presents 10 recommendations to increase diversity among JNC members and appointed judges. The…

Committee on Fairness and Diversity to meet with Florida A&M law students

Judge Scott M. Bernstein, chair of the Supreme Court Standing Committee on Fairness and Diversity, will address Florida A&M law students when the panel meets on the school’s Orlando campus February 15. Judge Bernstein will share with the students the work of the committee and how it may partner with the law school on diversity…

A plea to learn from past injustices

When an airplane falls from the sky or a train derails, National Transportation Safety Board investigators swoop in to the crash scene to figure out what went wrong, to try to make sure the tragedy never happens again. Yet when an innocent person is wrongly convicted and spends decades in prison, the American criminal justice…

Bar Convention to highlight diversity

Bar Convention to highlight diversity Symposium to help firms ‘create the winning edge’ Mark D. Killian Managing Editor Society and the legal profession have become more sensitized to diversity issues over the past few years because both have become more diverse, and projections indicate that the trend will continue. Against that backdrop, it is essential…

Diversity and Inclusion

I read the article by Yasir Billoo on “Implicit Bias and Its Application in the Life of a Lawyer” (March/April). I am not certain if this piece is a scholarly article meant to inform Florida lawyers, or if it is an op/ed intended to give the writer’s opinion. It seems to have characteristics of both,…

Gender Bias

Gender bias is not limited to male judges and male attorneys making demeaning remarks or requests to female lawyers. During my 40 years-plus of  civil practice, countless female clients routinely confided in me that they would never retain a female lawyer for whatever reason. In a recent New York Times survey, 70 percent of female…

Beyond the Barriers of Bias

In 2016, the Young Lawyers Division of The Florida Bar released the results of its Survey on Women in the Legal Profession, revealing gender bias across the board — from the courtroom to the office, and in a number of ways, from pay to harassment.[1] It was a reminder that the legal profession, as a…

Implicit Bias and Its Application in the Life of a Lawyer

Early in my career, while I was litigating in Arizona, I met men and women from a local Native American tribe who believed it was disrespectful to look someone in the eyes during a conversation. Before I learned about their beliefs, every time I met with witnesses who were members of that tribe, I thought…

What Does Gender Bias Look Like in Real Life?

Gender bias is the prejudice displayed toward one gender over the other.[1] Often this bias is implicit in our nature — molded by our culture, upbringing, and personal experiences.[2] A simple example of this bias is when a person refers to an individual by their occupation, such as “doctor” or “engineer,” and it is assumed…

Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives: What Is the Bar Doing Now?

The 2016-2019 Strategic Plan of The Florida Bar[1] outlines its objectives in its continuing effort to encourage and promote diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the profession and justice system. The Bar objectives include: • Creating a diverse judiciary, as well as diverse judicial nominating commissions, that reflects the population of Florida; • Continuing…

Mentoring Matters: The Diversity and Inclusion Fellowship Programs of The Florida Bar and Its Sections

By all accounts, the legal profession is facing a crisis: “Too many great minds are leaving the profession….Everyone needs to care about that — not just women, not just men.”[1] Although women comprise 45 percent of associates, they only account for 19 percent of equity partners in private law firms.[2] Gender inequity is a “multifaceted…

Adverse Employment Actions Based on Associational Disability Discrimination

We have all heard the sayings about our choices, or lack thereof, of the people in our lives: “You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your relatives”; “You’ll be known by the company you keep”; and “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer.” Yet in this world where many people’s online lives…

The Great Oz: What Really Happens Behind the Curtain of JNC Deliberations

  The Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) process is daunting for even the most seasoned applicant. While the procedure for the appointment of a person to fill a judicial vacancy is governed by the Florida Constitution,1 the law is silent as to the factors taken into consideration by the JNC commissioners and the governor in selecting…

Rx Warning: Quitting Diversity Efforts Too Soon May Result in Harmful Relapse

We have all heard the sage medical advice to complete the entire prescribed course of antibiotics for an infection. This decades-old adage was based on scientific fear that partial treatment of an infection could lead to a “super infection.” Even during Antibiotic Awareness Week 2016, the World Health Organization advised patients to “always complete the…

How One Voluntary Bar Association Addressed the Lack of Diversity on the Bench

I was president of the D.W. Perkins Bar Association in January 2013, when I spearheaded an initiative to examine diversity on the bench in the Fourth Judicial Circuit. The first step of the initiative was to research and compile the statistics of judicial nominations and gubernatorial appointments over a 20-year period, beginning in 1994. The…

LGBT Discrimination in the Workplace: What Will the Future Hold?

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Obergfell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584 (2015), focused the national conversation on the legal rights and protections of LGBT individuals when it held that states could no longer deny same-sex couples the right to marry under the same terms afforded to opposite-sex couples. The decision,…

“If You Plant Corn, You Get Corn”: On Mindfulness and Racial Justice in Florida and Beyond

Before Sandra Bland’s questionable stop while on her way to start a new job at her alma mater and mysterious death in police custody in Mississippi;1 before Eric Garner’s killing for selling “loosees” (single cigarettes) in front of a corner store on Long Island;2 a nd before Michael Brown’s killing and horrifyingly public on-street display…

Mindfulness on the Bench

Why do we speak of mindfulness for judges? Most judges, after all, do their jobs well without reference to mindfulness or calling on mindfulness practices. Without doubt, there are plenty of outstanding judges who have not considered the subject. I find it meaningful, in my work as a judge, as a means to focus on…

LGBT, the EEOC, and the Meaning of “Sex”

For half a century, Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination has been applied almost exclusively to disparities between women and men. A new decision by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Baldwin v. Foxx, EEOC Appeal No. 0120133080, 2015 WL 4397641 (EEOC July 15, 2015),1 extends Title VII’s protections to cover sexual orientation for federal…

The Gay Divorcee: Marriage Equality in Florida and the Nation

In the summer of 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court decided United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. 12 (2013). In so doing, the Court ushered in a new era concerning the contentious subject of marriage equality.1 While the landscape is still changing, seemingly on a daily basis, in all probability, the issue will be resolved this…

Diversity Losing Ground in the Judicial System

Essential to our democracy is the public’s trust in its existence. Nowhere is the public’s trust more important than in the judiciary. Studies have found that diversity in the judiciary is essential to ensure impartiality, public confidence, and the perception that all members of society are represented on the bench. While our constitutional right is…

A Call to Action

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” — Helen Keller Since I was a teenager, I have been inspired by that quote. It fuels my core…

Walking Together on the Path to Unity

Born with cerebral palsy, Timothy A. Moran zooms around in a power chair, and, because he is unable to write, he uses Dragon Naturally Speaking computer technology to dictate and complete pleadings for his clients. Now in a solo practice in Oviedo, he began his career volunteering for legal aid, calling pro bono a duty…

The Unsettled State of Pregnancy Discrimination Claims Under the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992

Florida’s employment law practitioners are no doubt aware that employment discrimination actions may be brought under both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII),1 and under the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 (FCRA).2 Both sections contain similar verbiage,3 and for years, courts have held the Florida Civil Rights Act be…

Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc.: Time to Apply the “But For” Burden of Proof to FCRA Discrimination Claims

The Supreme Court’s decision in Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc., 129 S. Ct. 2343 (2009), should significantly impact an employee’s burden of proof in establishing a claim of discrimination under the Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA). In Gross, the Supreme Court held that to establish employer liability for age discrimination under the ADEA in…

The Palm Beach County Bar Association Debuts its First Diversity Website

Among many other successful diversity efforts, the Palm Beach County Bar Association (PBCBA) has launched a diversity website that focuses on recruiting diverse lawyers to live and practice law in Palm Beach County. The bar association created the website, www.palmbeachbar.org/diversity.php, so that law firms and government agencies can show their candidates that Palm Beach County…

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967: Issues Litigated at the Supreme Court Level

In 2000, the U.S. Bureau of the Census estimated that 12.4 percent of the U.S. population was age 65 or older.1 Between the years 2010 and 2030, when the post-World War II baby boom population begins to retire, the elderly will comprise an estimated 21.8 percent of the total population.2 The issue of older Americans…

“Family Responsibility” Discrimination: The EEOC Weighs in on Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities

On May 23, 2007, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued, “Enforcement Guidance: Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities.” Although the enforcement guidance is not binding legal authority, it will be followed by all EEOC offices to resolve charges raising such issues. Further, courts will consider the enforcement guidance as persuasive authority in…

Consumer Protection in the Hispanic Community

The burgeoning U.S. Hispanic population, a $928 billion annual spending demographic, is being targeted with marketing messages from businesses large and small.1 Wal-Mart alone spends $60 million a year reaching out to this population.2 However, people who speak English as a second language, or who cannot read English at all, are particularly disadvantaged in reviewing…

At the Threshold – Where Preparation Meets Opportunity

It may be true that luck is where opportunity meets preparation. But often, there is a gap in between the two for students, especially law students. More often than not, forces of nature converge to bridge the gap between preparation and opportunity. One such catalyst in Florida is the Palm Beach County Bar Association’s Minority…

Faragher v. City of Boca Raton: A Seven-year Retrospective

The most heralded legacy of the 1998 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775 (1998) — a plaintiff’s victory allowing vicarious liability for hostile-environment discrimination — is, ironically, the “ Faragher defense.” While an employer is liable for discriminatory behavior by supervisory personnel, it can — so long…

Diversity’s Continuing Challenges

When former U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Joseph Hatchett first came to Florida in 1959, there were fewer than two dozen black lawyers forced to practice law in segregated courtrooms. When former Florida Supreme Court Justice Leander Shaw took the bar exam in 1960 at a Miami hotel, he was not allowed…

Diversity in the Legal Profession

A few months ago I attended a luncheon where the topic was diversity on the Florida bench, or more accurately, the lack of it. Although great strides have been made, there is still much work to do until our state’s judiciary reflects the rich heritage and varied experiences of its residents. A few numbers tell…

Determining the Meaning of “Direct Evidence” in Discrimination Cases Within the 11th Circuit Why Judge Tjoflat Was (W)right

Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.1 An employment discrimination plaintiff may establish a case of discrimination by using one of three alternative methods: 1) presenting evidence of discriminatory intent; 2) meeting the four-pronged test set forth in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973), and Texas Department…

Diversity Jurisdiction Removal in Florida

There can be a certain allure about proceeding in federal court when an opposing party initiates its lawsuit in state court. The decision whether to remove a lawsuit, however, cannot be made without first giving careful consideration to the mechanism and process of removal. A maelstrom of potential issues—from the mundane to the occasionally esoteric—await…

Limited the Use of “Me Too” Evidence in Employment Discrimination Case

The American workforce enjoyed remarkable prosperity during the last several years. The national rate of unemployment plummeted from a high of 7.8 percent in June 1992 to a low of 3.9 percent in October 2000.1 The decline in Florida’s unemployment rate was even more dramatic. In Florida, unemployment fell from a high of 8.8 percent…

The Beauty and the Beast in the Workplace: Appearance-based Discrimination Claims Under EEO Laws

In today’s world there is one thing that can be said with absolute certainty: Appearance matters. Our society is obsessed with appearance. Appearance is the focus of many books sold in local bookstores. It is the topic of many self-help seminars. In every walk of life, whether it is the cashier at the grocery store…

Reasonable Accommodation or Nuisance? Service Animals for the Disabled

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life, you will have been all of these.” With these words, George Washington Carver stressed the importance of benevolence toward the less…

The Court Clarifies a Discrimination Plaintiff’s Evidentiary Burden in Order to Avoid Judgment as a

On Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 2000 WL743663 (U.S. 2000), the Supreme Court resolved an issue which has stymied the labor and employment field for years, an issue the Court itself helped perpetuate in its 1993 decision St. Mary’s Honor Center v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502 (1993). The issue: What quantum of evidence must…

Diversity in The Florida Bar

Probably the greatest irony when The Florida Bar was formed is it was known as the “integrated” Bar. In this case integrated meant the new organization combined government regulation of the profession with the social and other aspects of the former Florida State Bar Association. It most assuredly did not mean racial integration, and very…

Whose Burden Is It, Anyway? The 11th Circuit’s Evolving Standard for Burden-Shifting in Employment

In 1964, Congress enacted Title VII, making it illegal for employers to discriminate against individuals on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.1 In doing so, Congress sought to eradicate the remaining vestiges of discrimination by requiring employers to remove “artificial, arbitrary, [and] unnecessary barriers to employment”2 that operate to exclude and…

Supreme Court Limits Coverage of the Americans With Disabilities Act

In mid-July, the U.S. Supreme Court issued three opinions construing the Americans With Disabilities Act1 ( ADA) that narrow considerably the class of people eligible to pursue disability discrimination actions under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act.2 The most far-reaching bright line rule established by the Court in these three cases is that the determination…

Application of the Florida Civil Rights Act to Extraterritorial Employees in Sinclair V. De Jay Corp

The Florida Human Rights Act, passed in 1977, and its amendment by the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 (FCRA),1 substantially mirror Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 19642 and its 1991 amendments.3 While Title VII provides remedies for employment discrimination throughout the United States, the FCRA ordinarily has been utilized as an…

Love Beneath the (Docket) Sheets: Office Romance and Sexual Discrimination Law

The December 14, 1998, cover story of U.S. News & World Report,1 titled “Love in the Office,” deals with the topic of office romance, along with its evil cousin, sexual harassment law suits. The article quotes Dennis Powers, author of The Office Romance: Playing With Fire Without Getting Burned, as stating, “Today’s fling is tomorrow’s…

Pregnancy Discrimination-Rights, Remedies, and Defenses

Congress enacted the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)1 in 1978 to add pregnancy as a protected status under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.2 The PDA requires equal treatment with respect to terms, conditions, and privileges of employment, including leaves of absence and benefits. The PDA does not require preferential treatment.3 The more…

Americans With Disabilities Act Obligations and Employer Knowledge

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Same-Gender Sexual Harassment: But Is It Discrimination Based on Sex?

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Growth of Employment Discrimination Actions in Professional Firms

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