New EEOC Guidance on Workplace Harassment Prevention

May 23, 2017 | Bryan Barajas

The EEOC says an alarming percent of the thousands of charges it receives annually now include harassment allegations which generate a lot of litigation. Charges of harassment come at a steep cost for employers. According to the EEOC, the Commission resolved 28,642 harassment allegations in 2015. Of those, 5,518 charges were resolved in favor of the charging party resulting in $125.5 million in fines for the employers. In light of these findings, the EEOC has taken steps to help both workers and managers handle the problem.

EEOC 2015 Statistics in the Private Sector

  • 27,893 charges received (31%) alleged harassment
  • 28,642 charges resolved (31%) alleged harassment
  • $125.5 million secured for employees alleging harassment in EEOC’s pre-litigation process
  • 33 lawsuits filed by EEOC (23% of all suits filed) alleged harassment
  • 42 lawsuits resolved by EEOC (27% of all suits resolved) alleged harassment
  • $39 million in monetary benefits secured for employees in EEOC lawsuits involving harassment

The EEOC has created a strong guidance on the best ways to prevent harassment in the workplace. The guidance includes four checklists that the EEOC urges employers to use to prevent harassment. Some of the highlights of the guidance include:

Leadership & accountability

  • A prevention effort that is supported with resources at the highest levels of the organization.
  • Time that is allocated by leadership for a harassment prevention effort.
  • A harassment prevention policy that is easy to understand.
  • Surveys to assess whether your employees have felt harassed.
  • Bystander intervention training that empowers co-workers to intervene when they witness harassment.
  • Civility training to promote acceptable conduct rather than just focusing on “what not to do.”

Anti-harassment policy

  • A clear description of prohibited conduct, with examples.
  • A clear description of your reporting system and the multiple avenues to report harassment.
  • Statements that individual names will be kept confidential to the extent possible.
  • Assurances that those who report misconduct, or act as witnesses to it, will be protected from retaliation.

Reporting & investigations

  • Managers who take reports of harassment seriously.
  • An environment in which people feel safe reporting behavior.
  • Well-trained investigators, who document all the steps they take.
  • Procedures (like follow-ups) to determine if individuals who report harassment experience retaliation.
  • Systems to ensure alleged harassers are not presumed guilty until it is determined that harassment occurred.
  • Communication of the findings of the investigation to all parties and, if appropriate, pending discipline.

Compliance training

  • Regularly repeated training.
  • Training provided to all employees at every level of the organization.
  • Qualified, live & interactive trainers.
  • Examples of harassment tailored to your organization and employees.
  • Simple terms that describe your reporting process.
  • Clear explanations of the consequences of harassment.
  • Instructions on how managers can report harassment up the ladder.

To view the 95-page report from the EEOC, entitled “Report of the Co-Chairs of the EEOC Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace,” click here.

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