EEOC Looks to Spruce Up its Harassment Guidance

Since the last time the EEOC updated its guidance on workplace harassment (oh say, in 1990), a lot has happened. A generation was born, graduated high school and joined American culture. There have been a couple court cases. The EEOC now thinks it’s time for some spring cleaning – proposing a new guidance document found here.

The EEOC guidance ends up proposing some “Promising Practices” to prevent and correct harassment. Right there, your ears should perk up. Let’s listen carefully to what the EEOC says it’s looking for.

You might be tested on this later on – say in a jury trial, when you’re defending your anti-harassment policy and your response to a harassment complaint. The closer you live to EEOC standards, the stronger your defense.

Three practices, according to the EEOC, show the most promise. They are:

  • Leadership and Accountability: Senior leaders’ commitment is the “cornerstone of a successful harassment prevention strategy.” Leaders must talk the talk and walk the walk. Saying that harassment won’t be tolerated isn’t enough, unless the leaders allocate “sufficient resources for effective harassment prevention strategies.” The EEOC was even kind enough to include a list of action items for leaders to implement.
  • Comprehensive and Effective Harassment Policy: A solid anti-harassment policy is an “essential element” for any company. The EEOC listed off 10 things the policy should say. How does yours measure up?
  • Effective Harassment Training: Harassment prevention tools only matter “if employees are aware of them.” No surprise, the EEOC recommends training. But the EEOC really wants your training to be “tailored to the specific workplace and workforce” and “routinely evaluated by the participants.” Also, don’t forget to train your employees (and supervisors) on the subjects the EEOC lists in its guidance.

All isn’t lost if you miss the boat on these. You’d fall back to Fifth Circuit precedent and stand your ground. But wouldn’t it be nice to say that the EEOC would love how you handled a harassment complaint?