Tuesday, May 7

9:35 am - 10:10 am

Michael Behrens

Counsel
Hueston Hennigan LLP

#Metoo is about more than just isolated instances of sexual harassment. The movement carries lessons for all organizations, big and small, on how to effectively deal with workplace misconduct related to issues of diversity, whether sexual harassment or instances of ethnic or racial discrimination.  In 2013, attorney Michael Behrens undertook an investigation of racial and ethnic bias and intolerance at a major research university on behalf of a blue-ribbon commission.  In this talk, he will discuss what he learned from that investigation, the concrete steps organizations large and small can take to prevent such incidents from occurring, and how to respond effectively when they do.  From zero-tolerance statements to policies, from the duties of corporate diversity officers to the basics of fact-finding investigations, Mr. Behrens explains the essential steps all organizations must take to prevent a workplace culture hostile to women and/or minorities from taking hold and to ensure that their organization does not become another corporate America cautionary tale.

You will learn:

  • The essential duties of any diversity officer
  • Which non-discrimination policies work, and which do not
  • The characteristics shared by all effective internal investigations

About Michael Behrens

Michael Arai Behrens represents clients in a wide range of litigation before federal and state courts and arbitral tribunals. He has litigated professional negligence, contract, defamation, commercial lease, health care fraud, RICO, labor union, and C-suite employment disputes, and has argued and won before the Ninth Circuit and in district court. Mr. Behrens also specializes in complex and sensitive internal investigations. In 2017, together with former California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno, Mr. Behrens led a high-profile investigation into allegations that officials in the University of California Office of the President interfered with a state audit. In 2013, Mr. Behrens conducted a sensitive investigation into racial bias at UCLA on behalf of a blue-ribbon panel chaired by Justice Moreno. The resulting “Moreno Report” was lauded by faculty as an important step for the university in supporting a diverse faculty, and its recommendations were adopted by UCLA.

Mr. Behrens maintains an extensive pro bono practice, with a particular interest in immigration. In 2013, Mr. Behrens obtained a landmark constitutional holding from the Ninth Circuit. Arguing on behalf of a pro bono immigration client, Mr. Behrens argued that the INS had violated his client’s constitutional due process rights when the agency mishandled his mother’s naturalization petition in 1985, depriving him of automatic U.S. citizenship. In the resulting opinion, Brown v. Holder, 763 F.3d 1141 (9th Cir. 2014), the Ninth Circuit held for the first time that a constitutional right exists to apply for U.S. citizenship. A concurrence by Judge Tallman, while agreeing with the result, called the ruling “expansive” and “novel” in finding, for the first time, a “constitutionally protected right to apply for citizenship.”

Mr. Behrens also works with victims of domestic violence in Los Angeles County. Most recently, he achieved a permanent restraining order against an abusive spouse for a victim of domestic abuse, as well as orders of full physical and legal custody of the victim’s two young children. Mr. Behrens is a board member of the Legal Aid Society of Orange County and Community Legal Services (LASOC-CLS), a private non-profit that provides legal advice, counseling and representation to low income individuals.


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