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The EEOC recently released a report highlighting the Commission’s efforts to combat sexual harassment in the past year.  The report, which includes preliminary data for the fiscal year ending on September 30, 2018, illustrates that the Commission has been, in the EEOC’s words, “vigorously enforcing the law” in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

The report’s most telling statistics include the following:

  • The EEOC filed 66 harassment lawsuits, 41 of which included allegations of sexual harassment;
  • Sexual harassment charges increased 12%;
  • Reasonable cause findings in harassment cases increased 23%;
  • The EEOC recovered nearly $70 million from employers through litigation and administrative enforcement in FY 2018, up from $47.5 million the previous year.

The current climate, and the EEOC’s recent statistics, reinforce employers’ need to be proactive in combating workplace harassment.  When reviewing internal policies and procedures, employers should be mindful of the EEOC’s recommendations set forth in a recent report by the Commission’s “Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace.”  Key recommendations from this report include the following:

Workplace Leadership and Accountability:

  • Employers should assess their workplaces for the risk factors associated with harassment and explore ideas for minimizing those risks.
  • Where harassment is found to have occurred, discipline must be prompt, proportionate to the severity of the infraction, consistent, and does not give, or create the appearance of, undue favor to any particular employee.

Harassment Prevention Policies and Procedures:

  • Employers should ensure that their harassment reporting protocol is communicated frequently to employees in a variety of forms and methods.
  • Employers should be alert for retaliation against an employee who reports harassment and should take steps to ensure that such retaliation does not occur.

Anti-Harassment Training:

  • Employers should offer compliance trainings on a regular basis and in a universal manner that include the content and follow the principles described in the EEOC task force’s report.
  • Employers should dedicate sufficient resources to train middle-management and first-line supervisors on how to respond effectively to harassment allegations.
  • Employers should consider including workplace civility training and bystander intervention training as part of a holistic harassment prevention program.

Employers should fully expect the EEOC to continue vigorously addressing workplace harassment.  However, following the EEOC’s recommendations and other industry best practices can help employers ensure that they are protected to the greatest extent possible.