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EEOC Task Force Announces Its Findings On Harassment Prevention Efforts

Published by on August 18, 2016

On June 20, 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) released a report on the prevalence of workplace harassment in the United States.

On June 20, 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) released a report on the prevalence of workplace harassment in the United States. The report is based on a fourteen month study, conducted by the EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace.

According to the report, harassment based on disability, age, race, ethnicity, religion, and sex (sexual orientation, gender identity, and pregnancy) is a still major problem nearly three decades after harassment became “a form of unlawful discrimination.” The study has revealed that “almost one-third of the roughly 90,000 charges filed with EEOC in [the] 2015 [fiscal year] included an allegation of harassment.” This does not include the number of incidents that go unreported. According to the study, three out of four employees who experience workplace harassment do not report these incidents to their supervisors.

The EEOC’s press release “called on stakeholders to double down and ‘reboot’ workplace harassment prevention efforts.” Co-authors Chai Feldblum and Victoria Lipnic believe that current efforts to prevent workplace harassment are ineffective because employers are focused on the wrong goal. Instead of reducing the prevalence workplace harassment, the report states that employers are more focused on avoiding legal liability. Commissioner Lipnic says the way to reduce workplace harassment is clear, the “training must change.”

The Select Task Force recommends that employers implement a “holistic committed effort to combat harassment, focused on the specific culture and needs of a particular workplace.” The report states that this approach will not require employers to abandon its current policies and procedures. Rather it will require employers to implement reporting and response systems to show that civility is of the utmost importance and incivility will be punished. The Task Force emphasizes that employees will only file complaints if they have faith in their company’s reporting system.

The report provides detailed recommendations to prevent workplace harassment. The recommendations range from new types of training such as “bystander intervention” and “civility training” to recommendations for future research and targeted outreach. The report offers a chart of risk factors, effective policies and procedures, and “a toolkit of compliance assistance measures for employers and other stakeholders.”

The report also includes recommendations for the EEOC. It recommends that the EEOC take part in “It’s on Us” campaign. The Task Forces also urges the EEOC to create resource guides and training modules for companies to use, as well as working with the National Labor Relations Board on certain issues.

Welter Insight:

The Select Task Force’s study provides employers with several recommendations to improve its current workplace harassment prevention efforts. If applicable, employers may considering shifting their focus on avoiding legal liability to fostering a workplace culture that denounces workplace harassment and focuses on empowering their employees through a strong harassment prevention program. Given that almost one-third of charges with the EEOC raise allegations of harassment, employers should consider implementing the Task Force’s recommendations to revamp its workplace harassment prevention efforts.

Public comments regarding Rebooting Workplace Harassment Prevention opened June 20, 2016 and will remain open for fifteen days.

Sources used:
Press release, Task Force Co-Chairs Call On Employers and Others to “Reboot” Harassment Prevention (June 20, 2016).

EEOC, Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace, Report of Co-Chairs Chai R. Feldblum & Victoria A. Lipnic (June 2016).

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