Last month, following the distribution of a horrific, racist email message by one of our former panelists, I convened a task force of diverse panelists and senior managers to augment the work of our existing Diversity Advisory Board and Associate Diversity Committee. Our initial mandate was to come up with specific, actionable recommendations within 30 days. The task force met that commitment and work has already begun on its recommendations.
The members of the CEO Task Force on Diversity rolled up their sleeves to engage in the work of making our successful organization an even better place for all our constituencies. It held several extremely productive meetings and all members have been engaged, positive, thoughtful and forthcoming in speaking their minds – all for the common goal of improving the way JAMS approaches the complex issues of diversity and inclusion as we combat discrimination in all of its forms.
The task force recommendations fall into five key areas:
- Enhancing our recruiting process and the vetting of prospective neutrals
- Strengthening our training programs including mandatory anti-racist training
- Implementing programs to increase the visibility and utilization of our diverse neutrals
- Improving communication to and among our diverse neutrals
- Ensuring that we have a safe and open culture for frank internal discussions about diversity and inclusion issues facing the organization
We are also conducting a review of our panelist service agreements and other processes to make sure we are fully enforcing JAMS’ values and ethics.
Although the task force set both short-term and longer-term goals, our work will continue indefinitely. Achieving and nurturing a diverse and inclusive workplace culture is a process – not something you can complete in 30 to 90 days. It is a process that involves all of us and quite frankly will be an ongoing priority.
Mandatory diversity and inclusion training has already taken place for our associates, and training sessions for all panelists are taking place today and tomorrow. We are encouraged by the overwhelming support and participation of our dedicated staff and neutrals.
The efforts by our panelists and associates to create a more inclusive, equitable, and safe environment free from bias will benefit our clients and help to ensure a strong future for JAMS. I would like to personally applaud the outstanding work of the CEO Task Force, the Panel Diversity Advisory Board, the Associate Diversity Committee and all those who are contributing to the ongoing success of our diversity, equity and inclusion programs as we collaborate to make JAMS the best it can be.
JAMS President and Chief Executive Officer
August 11, 2020
In the days following the murder of George Floyd I issued a public statement on behalf of our organization, outlining our stance against racism and embracing diversity. I also, proudly, announced a $100,000 donation from the JAMS Foundation to the Divided Community Project at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law on behalf of its “Bridge Initiative,” bringing our full commitment over the last five years to this important program to $1 million.
I did these things in the sincere belief that JAMS, as an organization, is working to address the bigotry that fuels the ongoing disparate treatment of people in our society. I believed we could look, primarily, outward and help coach the rest of the world to do better.
And then I saw Judge Neville’s email.
There is no need for me to recount the horrific message contained in that email. I can only say that anyone who would share such vile ideas can have no place in this organization – and that is why we immediately suspended him and, as quickly as we could under our rules of operation, severed our relationship with him.
His email and beliefs are in no way reflective of JAMS and who we are as an organization. Nonetheless, the fact that those beliefs were disseminated by someone who held a position of trust in the organization reminds me of the need to be constantly on guard against racism. It is woven into the fabric of our society, and our work toward helping to eradicate it is not done.
I know many of you have strong views as to what we must do to make our organization and our industry more equitable and I will seek your advice – formally and informally. In the coming days I will establish a small group to work with me and our Diversity Advisory Board, whose advice I will solicit directly and who I will ask to develop a concrete action plan for JAMS that can be operationalized quickly. This essential input will be in addition to the significant number of initiatives and programs we have in place. I will ask the members of this new group to take the next 30 days to develop and recommend a set of commitments that I will take to the Board of Directors for their consideration and approval.
Many organizations talk about goals – goals in recruitment, goals in hiring, goals in progressively moving the business forward. Goals are no longer good enough. It is time to make firm collaborative commitments in all of these areas that we will publicly share so that we all are part of our progress and are collectively accountable.
Other immediate actions we will take include:
- A review of our process for vetting Neutrals prior to joining JAMS
- A review and strengthening of existing mandatory training materials and modules
- A review of our neutral contracts and processes to ensure enforcement of company values and ethics
These are just the first steps. Drawing from our collective wisdom, we will be relentless in determining how best to undermine the pernicious evil of racism. As shaken as I continue to be at recent events, I remain proud of who we are and of the progress and strides we have made. Nonetheless, no organization, including JAMS, can yet say their journey toward full equality is over. The focus now should be on where we go from here.
JAMS President and Chief Executive Officer
June 8, 2020
As the CEO of a dispute resolution provider that is driven by a core set of values including neutrality and diversity, the tragic death of George Floyd and the loss of so many other lives has left me, like many throughout the world, angry and sad. We cannot be neutral when it comes to injustice and equality. JAMS must fight against racism, commit to speaking up and stand with those whose voices need to be heard. We are unwavering in our support of diversity and inclusion.
We embrace diversity and recognize that each individual is unique. We strive to listen to each other and celebrate the rich dimensions contained within each person. No matter a person’s age, race, color, gender, sexual orientation, disability or religious beliefs, we value everyone.
JAMS may not have a solution for all that is transpiring right now. However, we want to continue to create a work environment that serves as a safe haven for our associates, panelists and clients. We recognize that not everyone is okay right now, and that in particular our black panelists, staff and clients need to be supported and heard.
As a leading provider of dispute resolution services, it has always been our mission to bring people together. As an example, The JAMS Foundation is the leading non-profit in providing financial and other resources for conflict prevention and resolution. They continue to support organizations that specifically address the deep divisions within our country and some of the resulting consequences as we have seen during these past weeks.
As a continuation of those efforts, JAMS through our Foundation is making a $100,000 donation to support ongoing and new efforts of the Divided Community Project’s “Bridge Initiative,” which will bring the overall contribution to $1 million over the last five years. Based at The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, the Divided Community Project is a multi-pronged initiative that aims to bring together a broad coalition of dispute resolution professionals, government leaders, law enforcement officials, community organizers and other stakeholders across the country. This program provides public officials and community leaders with resources and technical support to plan for potential civil unrest before it occurs and to respond constructively to violent social conflict that does erupt.
The JAMS Foundation has long-standing relationships with, and provides financial assistance, for many conflict resolution and community mediation initiatives such as The New York Peace Institute’s Police Training and Mediation Referral Initiative, which provides training to police officers to de-escalate and resolve conflict and to foster more positive relations with the people and communities they serve. This program has demonstrated positive results and is pursuing expansion in several cities across the United States.
Supporting these types of organizations is incredibly important, especially now. We believe in their work and encourage others to learn more about them, which you can do by visiting JAMS Foundation.
We’re proud of the strong relationships that JAMS has built with dispute resolution professionals and community advocates who are fighting racism, injustice and division through focused and meaningful programs. This is just a starting point. We are dedicated to not only seeing how we can support diversity and inclusion internally, but also being part of a larger solution. While we cannot alter the past, we can work together to create positive change in the future.
JAMS President and Chief Executive Officer