Malia Lazu, an award-winning, tenured strategist in diversity and inclusion, was the keynote speaker during the first session of the Massachusetts Municipal Human Resources association’s Labor Relations webinar series on Oct. 22.

Lazu focused on the importance of organizational culture in creating an inclusive workplace and tools that municipal human resources directors and department heads can use to foster effective culture change. In order to take a diversity, equity and inclusion plan from intention to impact, she said, employers must focus on goal setting, systems change, and a shared understanding across the organization.

Lazu reviewed the history of culture in the United States, pointing out that culture change must start from an understanding of where we are and where we are coming from. She shared a number of tools that can be used by leaders of organizational culture change, including the Three Ls: listening to diverse communities about their experiences and history; learning together with colleagues about the current culture and problems within the organization; and taking loving action to make changes.

Lazu emphasized the importance of culture change leaders getting buy-in from other managers and department heads. This can be accomplished by regularly sharing the work that is being done, being open about places where you are feeling stuck, being open to answering loaded questions, creating spaces for ally work to happen, and supporting employee resource and affinity groups.

Following the keynote, MMA Legislative Director Dave Koffman provided a legislative update, including recent actions in the area of police reform, COVID-19 related paid sick leave, and state and federal vaccine mandates for employees. Koffman discussed a number of areas to watch on the 2022 legislative agenda, including the open meeting law and remote/hybrid meetings, cybersecurity, elections, and state-level ARPA priorities.

The webinar concluded with a labor law update from attorney Katherine Feodoroff, a partner with Mead, Talerman & Costa, who reviewed recent legal cases and guidance related to the Massachusetts Domestic Violence and Abuse Leave Act, sexual orientation and gender identity, and discrimination based on age, race, and disability. Feodoroff addressed a number of COVID-related issues, including guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission related to remote work, the extension and expansion of COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave, and employer vaccine and mask mandates. She also discussed a recent Commonwealth Employee Relations Board finding that municipalities must “impact bargain” with unions on assessment tests for fire chiefs.

The Labor Relations series will continue on Nov. 4, with two back-to-back workshops on topics in labor and employment. Rockie Blunt, president of Blunt Consulting Group, will lead a workshop about making the transition to supervisor, and Chrystal LaPine, program manager with the Region 5 Health and Medical Coordinating Coalition, will cover mental health and wellness for public safety personnel.

More than 120 human resources professionals and members of the labor community are registered for the Labor Relations series. The registration fee includes access to the webinar recordings and any followup materials. The recordings are available only to those who paid for the meeting.

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