Adam S. Forman, Member of the Firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s Detroit and Chicago offices, was quoted in Law360 Employment Authority, in “4 Tips for Using Virtual Reality to Boost Workplace Diversity,” by Anne Cullen. (Read the full version – subscription required.)

Following is an excerpt:

As social justice movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter put pressure on employers to ensure their workplaces are diverse and fair, businesses are increasingly eyeing virtual reality as a way to help reach this goal. But while virtual reality tools have advantages, experts warn they bring legal risk, too.

Unlike a dated training video or a PowerPoint, virtual reality programs aim to show a worker or manager what it's like to be in someone else's shoes for a brief period of time. In the headset, the employee assumes the identity of someone from a different background and navigates difficult workplace situations that could include harassment and discrimination.

While the data on these tools' efficacy in mitigating workplace bias is still coming in, experts say that a rising tide of companies were buying in as calls for social change reached a fever pitch over the past year. On top of that, pandemic restrictions have made technology that allows for distanced interactions extremely valuable for businesses.

"More and more companies are starting to consider this in the toolbox of ideas," said Adam S. Forman, an Epstein Becker Green employment partner. "For the first time in some companies' histories, they now have specific [diversity, equity and inclusion] officers, so I think they're looking for everything to help them achieve their goals."

But with the technology evolving and legal questions around its application in the workplace largely unsettled, experts said company leaders need to look before they leap.

"Employers need to fully understand the risk that they're assuming and make a business decision, whether the benefits they're gaining outweigh the risk," Forman said.

Here are four tips for employers looking to use virtual reality to try to root out discrimination and harassment in the workplace. …

Prep Alternatives for Disabled Workers

Experts said it's important to recognize ahead of time that not everyone is going to be able to put on the virtual reality headset — potentially because of a disability or other medical issue — so company leaders need to have alternative training options in place for those team members.

"You have to consider how you're going to train people who need an accommodation, particularly those who have a mental or physical impairment, for whom VR will not work," said Epstein Becker's Forman.

Company leaders need to put together a thoughtful plan that ensures every employee can access the relevant training, experts said. …

Don't Forget About the Real World

Proponents of virtual reality technology make clear that it should not be used in a vacuum. …

In the corporate world, experts say, it's important that company leaders who are using virtual reality in diversity, inclusion and equity training also mesh the program with traditional training methods that involve real-world interactions.

"With flight simulators, there's a reason why you still have to fly the plane," Forman said. "Hours behind a video game is not going to let you fly a jumbo jet."

"There's no substitute to actually being out there and engaging, and walking the talk, as it were," he added.

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