8:55 Welcome and Introductions
9:00 History of LGBTQ+ Law and Current Legislative Developments
Irena Como, ACLU of North Carolina, Raleigh Ann Webb, ACLU of North Carolina, Raleigh
This session provides an overview of the evolution of LGBTQ+ law and an update on state, federal, and local legislative and policy activity that impacts the LGBTQ+ community and helps attendees understand where these efforts are in the legislative process.
9:40 Allyship Within Your Practice *
Okeatta Brown, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Charlotte Karen Graci, PFLAG Charlotte, Charlotte Devin Green, PFLAG Charlotte, Charlotte Jonathan Murray, Moore & Van Allen, Charlotte Nicole Ramsdell, Belk Inc, Charlotte Candelario Saldana, Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft LLP, Charlotte
Let's start with a review of LGBTQ+ nomenclature and relevant data related to LGBTQ+ individuals in the workplace. Then we discuss strategies to foster LGBTQ+ allyship in the workplace and hear from a panel of LGBTQ+ individuals and allies who share their experiences along with key resources their organizations have used to support diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
11:20 Practical Employment Guidance for LGBTQ+ Workplace Issues
Taylor Dewberry, Smith Anderson Blount Dorsett Mitchell & Jernigan LLP Noël Harlow, Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, Durham Cristal Robinson, Cristal Robinson Law, Matthews Sarah Saint, Brooks Pierce, Greensboro (Moderator)
From updating dress code policies and crafting gender identity and transition guidelines to the impacts of
Bostock v. Clayton County's Title VII protections and harassment claims and litigation, this session provides practical guidance needed for you, your firm and your clients related to LGBTQ+ workplace issues.
12:20 Adjourn * Indicates portion providing Ethics/Professional Responsibility credit
Speakers address relevant federal and state laws, regulations and policies impacting employment, health care, education and more.
Okeatta Brown, a nationally recognized leader in diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI), and engagement, is Head of Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) for the Americas at Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) in Charlotte. She leads the I&D team and provides direction and support to MUFG's Executive I&D Council. She also serves as a link between MUFG's enterprise resource groups and business unit I&D councils to drive further success on diversity commitments.
Okeatta joined MUFG from Wells Fargo, where she held leadership roles for the past two decades. Her diverse background includes strategy, transformation, and program development for various workforce, marketplace, and social impact and sustainability initiatives. She was most recently senior vice president and Lead External Engagement Strategist for Diverse Segments, Representation, and Inclusion, where she was responsible for building strategic frameworks and solutions to advance the bank's DEI efforts.
Okeatta earned a Master of Business Administration from Montreat College and is a graduate of Johnson C. Smith University.
Irena Como is a senior attorney at the ACLU of North Carolina in Raleigh. She is a civil rights attorney with a criminal law background. She's passionate about creating change through litigation and non-litigation approaches. She is skilled in advocacy and strategy, media work, non-profit management, collaborative leadership and mentorship. She is fluent in both Spanish and Albanian.
Irena earned her B.A. in Sociology/Anthropology and Comparative Languages and Linguistics from Earlham College, her M.A. in Sociology and Social Anthropology from Central European University and her J.D. from Notre Dame Law School.
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Taylor Dewberry is the Chief Diversity Officer and an employment attorney at Smith Anderson Blount Dorsett Mitchell & Jernigan LLP in Raleigh. She joined Smith Anderson in 2017 and is an associate in Smith Anderson's Employment, Labor and Human Resources practice group. Her practice focuses on employment-related counseling and defending employers against claims involving discrimination, wrongful discharge, retaliation, harassment and civil rights claims. She has represented clients in state and federal courts and agencies throughout North Carolina.
Taylor is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association and chair of the Young Lawyers Division Diversity and Inclusion Committee. She was awarded Best Lawyers®, "Ones to Watch," Labor and Employment Law – Management in 2022 and The National Black Lawyers Top 100, Top 40 Under 40 in 2020.
Taylor earned her J.D.,
cum laude from Washington University School of Law and her B.A,, with honors, in American Studies, with a minor in African-American Studies, from Stanford University.
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Karen Graci is the Executive Director at PFLAG Charlotte. She leads the organization's efforts to strengthen families, empower LGBTQ+ allies, and elevate LGBTQ+ communities through peer support, education, and community outreach. Her responsibilities include: building collaborative community-wide strategic relationships, providing expanded peers support programming for families, friends and allies of LGBTQ individuals, developing innovative educational programs to heighten community awareness, writing and procuring grants, overseeing marketing and communications, event planning, and more and speaking at workshops and regional and national conferences.
Previously, Karen served as board chair and president for PFLAG Charlotte. Earlier in her career, she worked with Deloitte in Washington, D.C., Wilton, Connecticut and Charlotte, where her roles included manager of national recruiting.
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Devin Green is the Chapter Coordinator for PFLAG Charlotte. Devin was an honors political science student at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke with significant experience in advocacy and community activism aspiring to pursue a career as an attorney.
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Noël Harlow is an attorney at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin in Durham. She heads the firm's employment law practice and fights to protect everyday people trying to make an honest living.
Early in her career, Noël worked closely with domestic violence survivors while managing daily operations at a YWCA crisis shelter in Glendale, CA. She recognized that she could make an even greater impact helping disadvantaged people by becoming an attorney, and resigned after three years to obtain her law degree.
After law school, Noël got her first experience practicing employment law by defending employees in discrimination and sexual harassment cases, all while bringing nationwide wage and hour class actions. In 2009, she reignited her passion for supporting vulnerable women and children by serving as a gender-based violence authority and legal services counselor for Burundian and Congolese refugees in Tanzanian refugee camps.
Upon her return to the States, Noël became the legal and advocacy services director at the Center for Community Solutions in San Diego. For five years, she acted as lead counsel for the center's domestic violence and sexual assault victims, while also serving on various city and county teams dedicated to helping victims of domestic violence, elder abuse, and sexual assault. Noël then focused her drive and determination on managing a new "Anchor Team" in San Diego County aimed at providing comprehensive care to the elderly. She also worked with yet another underserved population and provided training and consultative services to a Native American nonprofit aimed at helping victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
Noël spent her first year and a half in North Carolina working at Legal Aid of North Carolina. She also taught an intersectional feminist jurisprudence seminar at Campbell University School of Law and was voted 2020 Adjunct Professor of the Year by the student body.
Noël earned her J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of Law and her B.A. in Economics from University of California at Los Angeles.
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Jonathan K. Murray
Jonathan K. Murray is an attorney with Moore & Van Allen PLLC in Charlotte. He received his B.A. degree from Hampton University in 1995 and his J.D. degree from Wake Forest University School of Law in 2000.
Nicole A. Ramsdell
Nicole A. Ramsdell is Vice President and Counsel of Belk Inc., a department store retail company headquartered in Charlotte, with almost 300 stores in 16 states and employer of approximately 26,000 employees across the country. Nicole handles employment law matters for the Company and provides strategic counsel to Company executives, internal business clients and leaders in the field. She provides advice to executives and their teams on a broad range of employment law matters involving issues covered by the ADAAA, Title VII, EPA, ADEA, FMLA, FLSA, FCRA, and other compliance issues.
Nicole is admitted to practice at the United States Supreme Court, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and all Federal and State Courts of North Carolina, and the District of Columbia.
Nicole obtained a B.A. in English and History, and a Certificate in Women's Studies from Duke University. After working in Moncalieri, Italy for a year she attended the University of Michigan School of Law to earn her J.D. After graduating, Nicole served as a judicial law clerk in the Middle District of North Carolina for The Honorable P. Trevor Sharp (ret.) and The Honorable Frank Bullock, Jr. (ret.).
Cristal Robinson is the managing attorney at Robinson Law in Matthews. Robinson Law is a disability and discrimination firm focused on diversity and civil rights in education and business ownership. Cristal loves helping people with special education and employment disability and discrimination law, as well as business law and asset protection law. As a seasoned attorney, business owner, and educator, she is passionate about advancing the rights of neurodivergent and LGBTQ+ people and business owners. In addition to the rights of the neuroqueer community, she is also involved in helping many other diverse communities.
With over two decades in business, Cristal has helped many businesses and non-profits to start, expand, or get back on track, as well as over a decade of helping people with family, estate and bankruptcy. Prior to attending law school, she owned American Real Estate Services, a real estate and mortgage company. When she became an attorney, she used technology to help promote her practice, work with clients, and design workflows.
Cristal has been appointed to serve on the North Carolina Bar Association's Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Committee (SOGI), which was established in 2021 by NCBA President Jon Heyl to secure full equality for members of the LGBTQ+ community in the NCBA, the legal profession, and society.
Cristal earned her B.B.A in Finance and her M.B.A in Accounting from West Texas A&M University and her J.D. from Western Michigan University Cooley Law School.
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Sarah M. Saint
Sarah M. Saint is an attorney in the Greensboro office of Brooks Pierce McLendon Humphrey & Leonard LLP, where she counsels and litigates on behalf of school boards, private schools, and institutions of higher education so that they can focus on what they do best: educating students. Sarah's background in school counseling informs her practice as she helps school districts navigate complex laws that impact students and educators. She has a particular focus on broadening awareness of diversity issues within organizations and counseling educational institutions on compliance with state and federal civil rights laws and regulations. Sarah's pro bono practice focuses on representing trans individuals in discrimination litigation and aiding trans individuals obtain legal name- and gender marker-changes.
Sarah is the YLD Liaison and a Council member of the NCBA Education Law Section, as well as a delegate to the ABA House of Delegates, the Bar Outreach Division Director for the North Carolina Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, and a member of the NCBF Pro Bono Committee. Sarah has been recognized by The Best Lawyers in America as "One to Watch" for Labor and Employment Law – Management.
Sarah went to Wake Forest University School of Law, where she was recognized by the North Carolina State Bar for her pro bono service and National Jurist as a "Law Student of the Year." Sarah also holds a Master's degree in School Counseling and uses her experience to counsel educational institutions on state and federal regulatory compliance and civil rights issues.
When not practicing law, Sarah enjoys playing board games, kayaking, cooking, and hiking with her wife and their three dogs.
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Candelario Saldana is an associate at the Charlotte office of Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft LLP in their Capital Markets Group. He represents investment banks and other financial institutions in secured commercial lending transactions, CLOs, commercial mortgage-backed securitizations and other asset-backed securitizations.
Candelario is a board member at National LGBTQ Task Force. His role there is to advance the mission statement of The National LGBTQ Task Force, which advances full freedom, justice and equality for LGBTQ people.
Candelario earned his Bachelor's in Political Science and Gender Studies from University of Utah and his J.D.,
cum laude, from the University of Miami School of Law.
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Ames Simmons is a Duke Law Senior Lecturing Fellow out of Washington, DC. He is policy director at Equality NC, where he provides vision and strategic direction for the organization's policy and advocacy agenda with the North Carolina General Assembly and the state's executive branch and administrative agencies. He also works with local governments on municipal policy and national policymakers on federal law and policy to drive Equality NC's work toward health, equity and safety for all LGBTQ North Carolinians. His work is rooted in community-based efforts prioritizing anti-violence, anti-oppression and transgender justice.
At Duke Law, Ames teaches Re-Thinking Gender: Transgender Issues Readings Course.
For almost two decades, Ames practiced in-house as assistant general counsel at a health care consulting company based in Atlanta. In addition to corporate law experience such as contracting with hospitals and with Medicaid managed care organizations, he also carried a substantial regulatory portfolio that included ten years administering a corporate compliance program and investigating HIPAA compliance, supervising accreditation as a certified application assister designated organization (CDO) under the Affordable Care Act, and direct representation of uninsured patients seeking eligibility through federal SSI or Medicare, or thirty-plus state Medicaid programs.
Ames, who is transgender and queer, is a proud member and mentor in the National Trans Bar Association. He serves on the National Advisory Council of the Long-Term Care Equality Index, a joint project of Advocacy and Services for LGBT Elders and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.
Ames received his JD from Emory University Law School after graduating with high honors from Agnes Scott College in Decatur, GA, with a BA in Political Science and Spanish.
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Ann Webb is the Senior Policy Counsel at the ACLU of North Carolina in Raleigh.
Ann earned her B.A. in International Studies from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her J.D. from American University, Washington College of Law.
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