EEOC Seeks Input on Guidance Addressing Unlawful Harassment

EEOC comments unlawful harassment guidance
Send in comments by February 9, 2017.

Yesterday, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) stated that it is seeking public input on a proposed enforcement guidance addressing unlawful harassment under federal anti-discrimination laws.

The 75-page proposal sets forth the EEOC’s interpretations of federal anti-harassment laws that the agency is charged with enforcing.

The guidance focuses on the three components the EEOC uses to evaluate a hostile-work environment claim:

  • Was the conduct based on the complainant’s legally protected status?
  • Was the conduct sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment?
  • Is there a basis for holding the employer liable for the hostile work environment?

The guidance provides numerous examples of unlawful conduct. The guidance does not just focus on sexual harassment but also discusses harassment based on any protected class, such as race, religion or transgender status. Where lower federal courts have not consistently applied the law, the guidance sets forth the EEOC’s enforcement position.

The guidance also takes into account a recent harassment prevention report that was released last June (Report of the Co-Chairs of the Select Task Force on Harassment in the Workplace). This report set forth findings and recommendations about harassment prevention strategies, including how to effectively train employees to reduce incidents of harassment and effective employer policies.

“Harassment remains a serious workplace problem that is the concern of all Americans. It is important for employers to understand the actions they can take today to prevent and address harassment in their workplaces,” said Chair Jenny R. Yang. “The Commission looks forward to hearing public input on the proposed enforcement guidance.”

The EEOC will accept public input until February 9, 2017. Input can be submitted through Alternatively, members of the public may send written feedback to: Public Input, EEOC, Executive Officer, 131 M Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20507.

California employers should keep in mind that last year the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing issued amendments to California’s Discrimination and Harassment regulations. The amendments included new requirements for harassment and discrimination policies and new rules relating to mandatory supervisor sexual harassment prevention training.

Gail Cecchettini Whaley, CalChamber Employment Law Counsel/Content

CalChamber provides an Employee Handbook Creator which contains a mandatory harassment, discrimination and retaliation prevention policy. The Employee Handbook Creator is available in both English and Spanish. Members can access the harassment, discrimination and retaliation prevention policies in the HR Library. Not a member? Learn more about what HRCalifornia can do for you.

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