NYLPI’s Michelle Kraus And Colleagues Discuss Microaggressions In The Legal Profession

May 9, 2019

Disability Justice, News

When a legal colleague says something demeaning in a meeting do we: Do nothing? Try to keep it light, and move on? Confront it directly? And how are legal organizations responding to such behavior more broadly?

NYLPI Senior Social Worker Michelle Kraus was featured today on a workshop panel about “Recognizing and Responding to Microaggressions in the Legal Profession” at this year’s Equal Justice Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, hosted by the American Bar Association and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association.

On the panel alongside Michelle (pictured right, above) were Tanya Douglas (left), the Director of the Disability Advocacy Project (DAP) and Veterans Justice Project Coordinator at Manhattan Legal Services, and Milo Primeaux (center), a queer transgender person (he/him), LGBTQ+ civil rights attorney, and founder/CEO of Just Roots Consulting, LLC, which works to build industry leaders of LGBTQ+ excellence nationwide. The panel was moderated by Lillian Moy, Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, Inc. (not pictured).

The workshop powerpoint is available to download in pdf format here, and includes contact details of the panelists, if you’re keen to discuss the issues further.

The workshop focused on different kinds of microaggressions—microassaults, microinsults, and microinvalidations, talked about why they happen, their harmful impact.

Far from being benign slights, microaggressions have serious detrimental consequences for organizations. They assail mental health, sap energy, lower productivity, create physical health problems, perpetuate stereotype threats, create hostile climates, and saturate the broader society with cues that signal the devaluation of social group identities.

Microaggressions are defined as “the everyday verbal, non-verbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. In many cases, these hidden message may invalidate the group identity or experiential reality of target persons, demean them on a personal or group level, communicate they are lesser human beings, suggest they do not belong with the majority group, threaten and in intimidate, or relegate them to inferior status and treatment.”

Different responses to microaggressions include not responding, keeping the response light, or confronting them directly. The workshop focused on the range of responses, and what the risks are to not bringing them up. Also on how best to respond to feedback if one has been told one has microaggressed.

The workshop also focused on microaggressions in the context of employment law and standards of civility and misconduct within the legal profession, including looking at case law. And at what organizations can do next:

As an individual – everyone should:

  • Recognize that dismissive attitudes are harmful
  • Engage in self-reflection to identify times that you may have been microaggressive in your person and work life
  • Participate in continuing education activities
  • Avoid making assumptions and labelling people

As an Institution – your workplace should:

  • Foster an inclusive and supportive environment
  • Collaborate with groups and organizations who are committed to addressing issues of diversity and inclusion
  • Offer trainings and opportunities for continuing education and diversity workshops

As colleagues we should:

  • Recognize that we all experience Microaggressions – as subject or observer
  • Contribute to an environment that encourages open and meaningful communication
  • Recognize, approach, and acknowledge Microaggressions




Take Action

Here’s what you can do right now for justice in New York…

Stay up to date

Get updates on our cases and campaigns, and join us in taking action for justice…

Stay Connected

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and opportunities to take action from our team.

Thanks! We’ll be in touch soon!

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!