Workplace Harassment Focus of EEOC Meeting

Jan 22 2015 - Disabilities, Harassment, Training - Gail Cecchettini Whaley

Workplace harassment is alleged in approximately 30 percent of all charges filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), according to EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang.

“By identifying underlying problems in workplaces and industries where we see recurring patterns of harassment, we are developing strategies that focus on targeted outreach and education as well as systemic enforcement to promote broader voluntary compliance,” Yang said at the EEOC’s meeting on January 14.

In its Strategic Enforcement plan for FY2013-2016, the EEOC recognized that an outreach campaign aimed at both educating employers and employees is an important strategy to deter future violations.

At the meeting, Yang announced the establishment of a task force to convene experts from the employer community, workers’ advocates, human resources experts, academics, and others in a broader effort to identify effective strategies that work to prevent and remedy harassment in the workplace.

Unlawful harassment does not just mean sexual harassment. Any harassment against a protected class is prohibited by both state and federal law. For instance, a major racial harassment case was highlighted during the EEOC meeting.

Testimony from one of the individuals affected by the harassment described a workplace where derogatory and demeaning ethnic and racial slurs were directed against African American, Hispanic and Native American employees.

The lawsuit ended with a settlement, which included numerous and specific training and posting requirements about equal employment and the right to work free from harassment. Additionally, the 17 men affected were awarded $1.2 million.

Many speakers agreed that the best way to combat harassment of all types was though awareness and training at all levels of employment and management.

But having a policy is not sufficient if the policy is not communicated understandably to the workforce, said Carol Miaskoff, acting associate legal counsel of the EEOC, noting, for example, that in a workforce that includes many teens, a policy should be understandable to the average high school student.

The EEOC will hold open the meeting record for 15 days until January 29, and invites audience members, as well as other members of the public, to submit written comments on any issues or matters discussed at the meeting. Public comments may be mailed to Commission Meeting, EEOC Executive Officer, 131 M Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20507, or emailed to Commissionmeetingcomments@eeoc.gov.

Shane Peterson, Senior Editor

In California, companies with 50 or more employees are required to provide mandatory sexual harassment prevention training to all supervisors within six months of hire or promotion, and every two years thereafter. Regardless of company size, it is recommended that companies provide harassment prevention training for all supervisors and employees.

CalChamber’s harassment prevention training offers one course geared to supervisors and another course geared to employees. Both courses are updated for 2015 to reflect new employment laws.

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