Michael Thomas’ life story was forged in the experiences of labor and diversity. He grew up in Pittsburgh, where most of his relatives worked in the steel mills. “The steel mills employed everyone regardless of background. At an early age, I learned that people, regardless of background, can build social bonds by working together. These bonds transform people and communities,” recalls Thomas, a principal at Jackson Lewis in Orange County, California, who focuses on employment law.
“Everyone has biases and we often form limiting beliefs about ourselves and others,” says Thomas. He has had to overcome bias and his own internal fears to navigate big law, where there are few African American partners. Thomas found yoga and mindfulness transformative. “You get into a posture and then your mind goes to so many places—to failures, success. What you realize is that thoughts are just thoughts. With yoga, you just focus on the breath and let the thoughts go.”
After incorporating mindfulness into his personal life, Thomas obtained a yoga certification, and began weaving his understanding of letting go of anxiety into his career. After launching his career with the National Labor Relations Board and earning an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley, Thomas has spent the past ten years combining his background in law, business, yoga, and mindfulness into a holistic diversity, equity, and inclusion practice.
“What I bring to my DEI practice for clients is a deep understanding of employment law and inclusion. We all want the same things,” says Thomas, who was recently named a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Visionary by the Los Angeles Times. “We all want to show up to the workplace to engage, contribute, and feel like we belong. It’s not an us versus them conversation. It’s a conversation about bringing the workplace together.”