WASHINGTON – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today that it has voted to release for public input a proposed enforcement guidance addressing unlawful harassment under the federal employment discrimination laws. The proposed Enforcement Guidance on Unlawful Harassment is available for input until Feb. 9, 2017 at https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=EEOC-2016-0009.
This proposed guidance, which is the product of extensive research, analysis, and deliberation, explains the legal standards applicable to harassment claims under federal employment discrimination laws. The laws enforced by EEOC protect individuals from harassment based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, or genetic information.
Between fiscal years 2012 and 2015, the percentage of private sector charges that included an allegation of harassment increased from slightly more than one-quarter of all charges annually to over 30% of all charges. In fiscal year 2015, EEOC received 27,893 private sector charges that included an allegation of harassment, accounting for more than 31% of charges filed that year. In the same year, federal employees filed 6,741 complaints alleging harassment – approximately 44% of complaints filed by federal employees that year.
“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.”
Preventing systemic harassment has been one of EEOC’s national enforcement priorities since 2013. The Commission reaffirmed this priority in its Strategic Enforcement Plan for 2017-2021. At a public meeting in January 2015, the Commission established a Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace to analyze workplace harassment and identify innovative and creative prevention strategies. Chaired by Commissioners Chai R. Feldblum and Victoria A. Lipnic and comprised of academic experts, legal practitioners from the plaintiff and defense sides, employers, employee advocacy groups, and organized labor, the Select Task Force met 10 times between April 2015 and June 2016 to hear and consider testimony and public comments. At a June 2016 public meeting, Commissioners Feldblum and Lipnic presented their Report of the Co-Chairs of the Select Task Force on Harassment in the Workplace (“Harassment Prevention Report”) with findings and recommendations about harassment prevention strategies.
“I am pleased that we are able to follow up on the recommendations in our Harassment Prevention Report with this release of the draft enforcement guidance on unlawful harassment,” said Feldblum. “This guidance clearly sets forth the Commission’s positions on harassment law, provides helpful explanatory examples, and provides promising practices based on the recommendations in the report. I believe it will be a helpful resource for employers and employees alike, and I look forward to receiving comments from the public.”
“As we learned from the Harassment Prevention Report this past year, 30 years after the U.S. Supreme Court laid down the law in this area, harassment charges and cases remain a far too dominant part of the work of the Commission,” said Lipnic. “I am pleased the Commission is offering an updated version of its positions on the important legal issues on this topic and look forward to the public input.”
The public is invited to submit input about the proposed Enforcement Guidance on Unlawful Harassment via www.regulations.gov. Alternatively, members of the public may send written feedback to: Public Input, EEOC, Executive Officer, 131 M Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20507. Please provide input in narrative form and do not submit redlined versions of the guidance document. Input will be posted publicly on www.regulations.gov, so please do not include personal information that you do not want made public, such as your home address or telephone number. The deadline for submission of public input is February 9, 2017.
After reviewing the public input, the Commission will consider appropriate revisions to the proposed guidance before finalizing it.
EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.