Breakfast for Champions: Responding to Hate in the Workplace

After a long hiatus, Partners in Diversity hosted its first in-person Breakfast for Champions session at the PNC Live Studio. Focused on responding to hate in the workplace, the panel conversation was led by Miguel Arellano Sanchez from the Oregon State University Bias Incident Response Team; Alysha Schultz from Intuitive Digital; Fay Stetz-Waters from the Oregon Department of Justice; and Michelle DePass from the Portland Public Schools Board of Education. With an increasing number of hate and bias crimes being reported across the state, panelists shared insights on potential causes and the policies and response approaches that each of their organizations are taking to address these incidents. 

The increase in reports can be attributed to several factors, but one that was echoed during the conversation was an increase in national extremist rhetoric. “Bias incidents don’t just happen in a vacuum. What we’re seeing at Oregon State University is a microcosm of what’s happening in the larger society, which is impacted by extremist rhetoric. In the last few years, especially this past year, we have seen a lot of bias incident reports targeting LGBTQ individuals, specifically, trans individuals, and we have seen in national rhetoric, a lot of anti-trans legislation,” shared Miguel Arrellano. Organizations have complete control of their company culture, but it’s important to acknowledge that external and environmental influences can also impact whether employees feel welcomed and safe in the workplace.

Hate and bias incidents vary in severity and don’t always lead to consequences for the culprit, so prioritizing support for victims is crucial to a well-thought-out response plan. Fay Stetz-Waters, Director of Civil Rights at the Oregon Department of Justice shared the importance of providing care services to victims and how the Oregon Bias Response Hotline is addressing a gap in these services, “As a victim service hotline, we are solely focused on the victim’s needs. In the aftermath of hate and bias, we understand the harm, the trauma and the damage that occurs. We understand if it’s not addressed, it can result in lasting harm and that harm is spread throughout communities.” The Oregon Bias Response Hotline is one of many reporting hotlines across the state and keeps all reports anonymous. A few of the services provided by the hotline include an emergency fund if the victim incurred costs, legal assistance, culturally responsive resources, and instructions for filing a police report. Although organizations may be limited in the legal actions they can take when addressing incidents, designing a clear incident reporting process, providing a list of resources to employees during onboarding, and even ensuring that mental health care is offered as a benefit to employees can go a long way in mitigating the harm that results from a hate and bias incident.

A special thank you to Port of Portland and PNC Bank for sponsoring our latest Breakfast for Champions session. If you missed the last session or would like to re-watch a previous session, we encourage you to log into your employee portal to access the recorded sessions. To access the trainings and log in to the portal, click here.