by AMELIA J. HOLSTROM, Esq.
Originally published: February 21, 2017
In response to an increase in claims of workplace harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency responsible for enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws including Title VII, issued a 75-page Proposed Enforcement Guidance on Harassment on Jan. 10.
The majority of the guidance deals with matters previously addressed by the EEOC, including the elements of harassment; the list of protected characteristics under federal law, including the EEOC’s interpretation that ‘sex discrimination’ includes one’s sexual orientation and gender identity; and the defenses available to an employer facing a harassment suit.
Although it has a long-standing practice of issuing harassment-enforcement guidance, the EEOC appears to take things a step further in this proposed guidance and makes suggestions for employers, including policy and training suggestions, among others. Before providing specific suggestions in the guidance, the EEOC begins by articulating that senior leaders are the “cornerstone of a successful harassment-prevention strategy,” and that they have to express frequently and with clarity that harassment will not be tolerated.