As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had the opportunity to represent Connecticut as its State Delegate at the ABA House of Delegates meeting in Chicago on Monday and Tuesday.

While some of what we did will be of interest to lawyers only, the ABA presented its highest honor, the ABA Medal, to Morris Dees.

Many of you have probably never heard of him.  But you should.  Because the work that he and the group that he founded — the Southern Poverty Law Center — does has a direct impact on employers and employees alike.

I believe, at least in Connecticut, that the vast majority of employers now strive to treat their employees fairly.  (The “hate map” from the SPLC shows that there are still a few incidents even in Connecticut.) Indeed, in conversation after conversation with employers, I’ve heard the same refrain from employers: It’s hard to find good employees; I fired the employee because they couldn’t do the job, not because of their [fill in the protected characteristic here].

Dees reminds us, however, that discrimination and, worse, violence against individuals because of their race, or sexual orientation, still goes on unchecked in the United States every day.  But employers don’t have to be bystanders in what goes on. Indeed, employers can continue to lead by example to show that civil rights and business are not opposite ends of the spectrum.

One of the most inspiring parts of Dees’ speech was his discussion of the lessons he learned from one client. I can’t do the story justice, but I urge you to watch the short video. (His speech starts around the 5th minute.)