MELA's Statement on Racism

For Immediate Release

July 8, 2020

The Massachusetts Employment Lawyers Association (“MELA”) is an organization of attorneys who devote the majority of their law practices to representing employees in workplace disputes and advocating for workers’ rights. The systemic racism infecting America is largely ignored. However, the recent video footage of the brazen killings of George Floyd, Amhaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor shocked the world and put the racial bias in policing and the criminal justice system at the forefront, leading to national outrage and sustained protests.

The racism engrained in the employment world is also ignored. However, there are no bodycams or other video recordings behind the closed doors of board rooms where employers make hiring and firing decisions and hand out promotions. There is no scrutiny in the office where human resources representatives throw out the resumes of qualified applicants with "Black" names. But the stark lack of diversity in most job markets and the disproportionate low numbers of Black people in high powered and high wage positions indicates that racism still pervades the American workplace. Racism in employment is a scourge that must be addressed, and freedom from racial discrimination in the workplace should be a guaranteed right. MELA attorneys are committed to bringing equity to the workplace. Through legislative change and courtroom advocacy we fight to uphold the rights of all employees and force those who would otherwise ignore racial bias to address it.

MELA also recognizes that racism cannot be fought in the courtroom and the legislature alone.  MELA attorneys recognize the need for a sustained, daily effort to effect systemic change. Consequently, MELA states that it unequivocally supports the Black Lives Matter movement. Additionally, MELA recognizes that our organization and the plaintiff’s bar in general is not nearly as diverse as it should be given our work and our beliefs. In response we commit to ensuring that attorneys of color are not only encouraged to join MELA, but we commit to making them feel welcome in this space. Still, we must do more.

Recently, the Supreme Judicial Court challenged attorneys to do more than express feelings of sadness and anger and go further to examine what we are doing and failing to do. In response to this challenge, MELA commits to examining its place in upholding systemic racism. We commit to checking our implicit biases against Black people. Living in a country with a deep-seated history of white supremacy and working within a legal framework that has an equally racist history undoubtedly instills bias. It is MELA’s commitment to combat racism by ensuring that bias does not impact our decisions when it comes to selecting clients or employing attorneys. To accomplish this MELA attorneys commit to engaging in the uncomfortable and sometimes difficult work of examining, accepting and working to move past our flaws that contribute to a system of white supremacy.

By making this commitment, MELA moves closer to becoming a collective of advocates combating racism in the court room, legislative house and, most importantly, in our everyday lives. 

In Solidarity,

Executive Board of the Massachusetts Employment Lawyers Association