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Monday, October 23, 2017

Workplace Harassment

The anti-discrimination provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including court decisions interpreting them, are extensive and sometimes complicated. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency enforcing such statutory provisions, has developing guidelines regarding these anti-discrimination provisions. The guidelines were established to both guide those who have been the victims of workplace discrimination and those employers trying to comply with the law.

In March of 1990, the EEOC issued its “Policy Guidance on Current Issues of Sexual Harassment.” The guide was meant to help clarify the EEOC’s accepted definition of sexual harassment and how it violated Title VII. The EEOC has since been working to update the guide to further educate employers on employees in an attempt to prevent workplace sexual harassment.

The law of sexual harassment and anti-discrimination is complex, but so important to understand in order to protect yourself as an employer or an employee. The experienced employment law attorneys at Tand & Associates are her to counsel you on things such as sexual harassment in the workplace and the EEOC’s positions on sexual harassment in the workplace. Know your rights as an employee or know what practices and policies to put in place as an employer in order to foster a safe work environment free from sexual harassment. Contact Tand & Associates today.

What are the Proposed Updates to the EEOC Guidelines on Workplace Harassment?

The EEOC Guidelines on Workplace Harassment were promulgated in order to provide guidance on the EEOC’s understanding of Title VII and court decisions surrounding court interpretations of Title VII as the statute pertains to harassment in the workplace. This original guidance document was issued in the 1990s. More than 25 years later, the EEOC worked to develop an update to the workplace harassment guidelines. While the EEOC may not have adopted to revised guidelines as of yet, the proposed updates still give valuable insight into the agency’s stance on harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

The Proposed Enforcement Guidance on Unlawful Harassment goes beyond that laid out by the 1990 guidance. The 1990 guidance only addressed sexual harassment while the proposed guidance addresses harassment based on: sex, LGBT, religion, age, national origin, disability, and genetic information. The proposed guidance is extensive and contains a great deal of information. A few points addressed by the proposed guidance include:

  • The definition of what constitutes harassment
  • Suggestions for preventative practices to stop workplace harassment
  • Training to improve reporting incidents of harassment and acting on reported incidents
  • Focusing trainings on harassment prevention as opposed to how to avoid legal liability
  • Employers addressing harassment complaints even if the complaints do not look like they meet the Title VII standard because of the possibility that the complaints could escalate in the future
  • Employees are protected from unlawful workplace harassment by people who are non-employees, such as independent contractors, customers, and clients.
  • Workplace culture is not a defense to harassment.

While the proposed guidance would not have the force of law if and when it is adopted by the EEOC, it does provide a valuable reference point for addressing harassment in the workplace.

Workplace Harassment is Harmful to Everyone. Let Us Help.

The EEOC has made it clear that workplace harassment remains a serious problem. Between the 2015 and 2015 fiscal years, the percentage of private sector charges that involved harassment allegations jumped to 30%. This is a problem that effects both employers and employees. At Tand & Associates, we are here to help employers put policies and systems in place to prevent workplace harassment. Our dedicated employment law attorneys are also here to help any employee who feels that he or she has been the victim of harassment at work.


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