It was a great privilege to interview Todd A. Solomon, the head of McDermott’s Benefits, Compensation & Employment Practice Group. Todd chairs the Firm's Pro Bono and Community Service Committee. He received the 2008 McDermott Will & Emery award for Outstanding Achievement and Commitment to Pro Bono and Service to the Community. Additionally, he is a member of the McDermott's Diversity and Inclusion Committee and has been involved with evaluating the Firm's domestic partner benefits policies and working with businesses in Chicago in jointly advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in the workplace.
Todd Solomon will be presenting the concurrent Session, The Forgotten “T” in LGBT Diversity: Best Practices for Creating a Transgender-Inclusive Workplace, on Tuesday 6/19/18, 7:00 Am – 8:15 AM, Room TBD, at the 2018 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition -- #SHRM18 -- in Chicago.
As a married gay man and a Diversity & Inclusion leader, I find issues involving the LGBT community very dear to my heart.
Check out my interview with Todd below:
AP: Please tell us a little about yourself:
TS: I am the global practice group leader of the 45-member employee benefits group of McDermott Will & Emery, which is an international full-service law firm. I have been with the firm for 20 years (my whole legal career), and I love practicing in the area of employee benefits/ERISA.
AP: Is this your first time presenting at a SHRM conference? If not, what other SHRM conferences have you presented at? Have you presented at other conferences, besides SHRM? Let us know.
TS: I have been presenting at 1 or 2 SHRM conferences per year for the last 12 years or so. The SHRM brand is extremely impressive, and the attendees always bring a great deal of energy and enthusiasm, as well as excellent questions.
I also speak frequently at other employee benefits conferences on a national basis.
AP: What can an attendee at the SHRM conference expect to learn at your session, The Forgotten "T" in LGBT Diversity: Best Practices for Creating a Transgender-Inclusive workplace?
TS: We are going to dig in to discuss the challenges and best practices for providing fully inclusive benefits and employment policies for transgender employees. Even employers that are LGBT friendly tend to spend less time and effort on this issue, so it is important for employers to be focusing on this emerging and timely issue. This session will go over all of the hot topics, from dress codes, to gender transition guidelines, to bathroom usage, to coverage of sex reassignment surgery under an employer medical plan.
AP: In your opinion, when discussing how to create an LGBT-inclusive workplace environment, why are employees represented by the last letter of the acronym overlooked?
TS: Too often employers assume that they do not have transgender employees in their workplace, and in some cases employers are nervous about pushing employees to talk about and accept employees whose differences are typically visible and might be uncomfortable for some. Employers need to get past this and press the issue in order to create a comfortable and inclusive environment for its transgender employees.
AP: How can we as HR Professionals help create a more inclusive workplace environment for transgender employees?
TS: Most importantly, they can be accepting of all of their employees and encourage dialogue. Support for LGBT employees must come from the top down in order to be effective, and it has to be evidenced by concrete actions in addition to mere words.
AP: One of your specializations in law is advising companies and individuals on issues relating to domestic partner benefits. Please tell us a little about this.
TS: I have been advising a broad range of employers on this issue for approximately 19 years, when only a few employers offered benefits to domestic partners. It has become a true passion of mine to educate employers and the public about how to legally offer benefits to same-sex partners and some of the historical unfairness in the Tax Code with respect to covering domestic partners. I am proud to say that I started working on this issues when it was not necessarily popular to do so, and I have witnessed firsthand the major changes and evolution in the area.
AP: Please tell us a little about your book, Domestic Partners Benefits: An Employer’s Guide, published by Thompson Information Services.
TS: This is a “how to” guide for employers wishing to offer benefits to unmarried partners and same-sex spouses, and it goes through all of the issues and challenges from soup to nuts.
AP: To make things a little more light, what is your favorite show to watch on television, movie, & book & why?
TS: My favorite movies recently were Get Out and The Big Sick. I thought both were groundbreaking in their portrayal of complex diversity issues, and they were both extraordinarily entertaining in entirely different ways.
On TV, I am a huge fan of This is Us. I find nearly all of the characters to be rich and realistic, and the emotional attachment I feel to the family portrayed is surprisingly strong. It shows us that life is not perfect, and everyone has their struggles, but there is an immense power and connection within a familial unit that carries throughout everyday life. There is something for everyone in that show.
Regrettably, I am so busy with work that I rarely get time to read anything other than ERISA, the Tax Code, and Treasury Regulations.
AP: How can one read more about Todd Solomon, as well as what links we can follow you and feel free to share your contact information?
TS: My law firm bio can be found on our website www.mwe.com, and I am very active on LinkedIn as well. I welcome the opportunity to connect with anyone reading this.
Check out Todd LinkedIn page by clicking here.
Todd, thank you for such an informative interview. We are looking forward to your session!