The United States Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) recently released the “Proposed Enforcement Guidance on Harassment in the Workplace.” The EEOC also explained how it would help protect workers. According to the EEOC, the proposed guidance “explains the legal standards and employer liability applicable to harassment claims under the federal employment discrimination laws enforced by the EEOC.”
Furthermore, it proposed guidance that “explains the legal standards and employer liability applicable to harassment claims under the federal employment discrimination laws enforced by the EEOC. These laws protect covered employees from harassment based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation, transgender status, and pregnancy), national origin, disability, age (40 and older), or genetic information.” This guidance includes several updated examples to demonstrate various scenarios.
It also showcases updates concerning current case laws on workplace harassment, discusses the increase in the use of digital technology, and how social media content and other types of online content can potentially add to a hostile work environment. Other covered topics include harassment concerning childbirth, pregnancy, and reproductive decisions as part of sex-based harassment. The EEOC also mentions that employers must have sufficient anti-harassment policies and training in the guide to help supervisors spot and report instances of harassment.
In 2017, the EEOC released a proposed guidance on workplace harassment for public comment. However, it did not finalize. This new guidance has undergone many changes, including those noted above. As such, it now considers the decision made by the Supreme Court in the case Bostock v. Clayton County.
The EEOC Chair stated, “Preventing and addressing harassment in America’s workplaces has long been a key priority for the EEOC, and this guidance will provide clarity on new developments in the law and build on the Commission’s previous work.” Furthermore, “[the] Commission looks forward to receiving public input on the proposed enforcement guidance.”
According to the EEOC, workplace harassment has proven to be a growing and severe problem. For example, over a third of the charges received between fiscal years 2016 and 2017 involved harassment allegations. This guidance is one step in the EEOC’s efforts to address workplace harassment. The agency also offers additional resources intended to manage the problem.
One example includes their “Promising Practices for Preventing Harassment,” a technical assistance document; another is the “Report of the Co-Chairs of the Select Task Force on Harassment in the Workplace.” The updated guidance is available in the Federal Register. As such, the public may comment on it until November 1. It will replace the version issued between the late 1980s and 1990s, so employers must comply with the new guidance if finalized.