Change is on the horizon. On the heels of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movement, the EEOC received a budget increase – for the first time in years – to address sexual harassment.
In a recent statement released by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Acting Chair, Victoria Lipnic, thanked Congress for recognizing the needs of the agency and promised that “[g]oing forward, [she] will ensure that [the agency] use[s] these additional funds judiciously to enhance the agency’s work – especially as to harassment prevention.”
The EEOC’s efforts to prevent harassment were already underway prior to the budget increase. In November 2017, the EEOC published Promising Practices for Preventing Harassment, which covers five “core principles” in preventing harassment including: committed and engaged leadership; consistent and demonstrated accountability; strong and comprehensive harassment policies; trusted and accessible complaint procedures; and regular, interactive training tailored to the audience and the organization. These principles were first identified in the June 2016 Report of the Co-Chairs of the EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace.
A companion piece to the Report is the EEOC Enforcement Guidance on Unlawful Harassment, which is pending final clearance at the Office of Management and Budget and expected to be released soon. The new Guidance will review the legal standards for unlawful harassment and employer liability and replace various earlier EEOC guidance publications.
While the EEOC publications are not laws themselves, they certainly suggest that the agency will consider an employer’s commitment to the prevention of alleged harassment in future investigations. With this in mind, employers should utilize the EEOC’s publications as a framework for reviewing and revising existing harassment policies, and establishing an ongoing comprehensive harassment training program for employees. We at Miller Tack & Madson would be happy to assist the Districts in their efforts to keep members apprised of recent developments and employer obligations.