EEOC: Workplace harassment remains “persistent problem”

In 2014, a total of 26,820 workplace harassment allegations were filed with the EEOC, leading the Commission to conclude that “harassment persists as a significant problem in the American workplace.” In an effort to help organizations better prevent harassment, the EEOC issued a press release in which it recognized “targeted outreach and education” as an important tool in the effort “to promote broader voluntary compliance.”

In order to reflect the best practices for outreach and education, CCA experts recommend that organizations adhere to a number of guidelines that take targeted education beyond formal workplace harassment training.

Harassment prevention begins with employment itself:

  • New hires should receive a copy of the organization’s policies promptly upon beginning employment. The organization should maintain a record of their receipt.
  • Employees should be trained promptly upon joining the organization. Organizations should maintain a record of this training.
  • New managers should receive training that covers their responsibilities no more than 6 months after their promotion.
  • Training should be re-administered every two years.

Training should cover:

  • Federal laws
  • Laws of any US state where the organization does business
  • Local municipal law, where applicable
  • Any overseas jurisdiction in which the organization does business

 Topics should include:

  • Sexual harassment
  • Workplace harassment (e.g., bullying)
  • Discrimination (based on protected categories such as race, national origin, religion, disability, age, etc.)
  • Retaliation

The specific details of the training should:

  • Emphasize the prevention of harassment
  • Reinforce the organization’s policies
  • Ensure that employees understand that the organization has zero tolerance for harassment and that leadership embraces the organization’s policies
  • Include a description of the complaint process that identifies multiple avenues for lodging complaints

In order to keep pace with change, the organization’s policies should be updated at least once a year to reflect:

  • New and revised regulations
  • Emerging avenues through which harassment can take place (e.g., social media)

In the event that harassment does occur, an organization can mitigate the legal risks it faces by conducting a thorough workplace investigation.