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How can employers prepare for the new EEOC harassment guidelines?

On Behalf of | Oct 6, 2023 | Employment Law (Employer)

Workplace harassment is a major topic of discussion in Indiana and across the nation. Understandably, this is often viewed from the perspective of an employee who claims they were victimized whether it is sexual harassment, workplace bullying or other forms of mistreatment.

Rarely is the case assessed from the viewpoint of the employer. Still, employers have rights just as employees do and it is imperative that they are protected if they are confronted with allegations of harassment in the workplace.

EEOC seeks comments on new harassment guidelines

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is preparing to update its guidance regarding workplace harassment. The agency has not done so since 1999. While the EEOC’s guidance is not required to be followed under the law, it can be cited if an employee files a claim. Therefore, employers need to be cognizant of what it might entail so they know how to prevent this behavior and formulate a defense if they face a legal case.

The EEOC is currently pursuing cases against major companies including Tesla and Walmart. The former centers on accusations of racial harassment; the latter is for sexual harassment. If it updates its guidance, it would look at sex, gender and other issues that are gaining prominence in recent years such as LBGTQ concerns.

Currently, the EEOC wants comments from the public about how to move forward. One case that is deemed relevant is from 2020 when the U.S. Supreme Court found that a person who was discriminated against because he was homosexual met the threshold for the case to be categorized as unlawful sex bias.

It also addresses virtual work and how people can be subjected to sexism and racism in that context. This is a primary issue in the current work environment with more and more people working remotely and the rules are unclear as to how some behaviors will be handled. Unlawful harassment can extend to social media comments even when off work.

It is vital for employers to forge a strong defense

Employers must keep current on the basics of preventing harassment in the workplace. When there are allegations of wrongdoing, it can damage a business in myriad way harming morale and putting the company in a negative light. It can also be costly if there is a successful legal claim against the employer.

Simply because an accusation was made does not mean it is true. There could be underlying factors at play that show the employer behaved appropriately and complied with the law when dealing with any allegations of harassment. Employers should prepare for the new guidelines and be proactive in putting plans in place to adhere to employment law. When accusations of wrongdoing are made, they should also prepare a viable and comprehensive defense.