Earlier this month, I noted a California bill that would require publicly held corporations have a minimum number of "directors from underrepresented communities". The bill, AB 979 (Holden), originally defined "directors from underrepresented communities" to mean an individual who self identifies as African-American, Hispanic or Native American. Earlier this week, the author amended the bill to include individuals who identify as Black, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native Hawaiian or Alaska Native.
Like the proposed federal Improving Corporate Diversity Through Diversity Act of 2019, AB 979 relies upon self-identification. Thus, it raises many similar questions. For example, is it enough that the individual sincerely believes that he or she is a member of one of the listed groups or must some factual basis exist for the self-identification? Would Rachel Dolezal's self-identification as black be respected? If facts are required, what facts must be shown to substantiate an individual's self-identification? Still another question is how are these communities to be defined. Does an individual with roots in Georgia, Armenia or Azerbaijan qualify as an Asian? Could former Justice Marvin Baxter or the late Justice Benjamin Cardozo self identify as Asian or Hispanic under AB 979?