The #MeToo movement has galvanized many into taking action to fight workplace harassment. Since the movement began in the fall of last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)—tasked with enforcing laws prohibiting sexual harassment—has indicated it has seen an uptick in the amount of traffic to its website. But, it also indicated this increase in website visitors has not translated into an increase in formal complaints to the EEOC filed by employees against their employers. Still, the EEOC has carried the torch of the #MeToo movement, signaling that the lack of an increase in claims will not stop the agency from vigorously enforcing anti-harassment laws.
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) not only prohibits discrimination, harassment and retaliation, but goes a step farther than similar state laws in its explicit requirement that employers take reasonable steps to prevent and correct such conduct. Cal. Gov’t Code § 12940(k). In 2016, the California Fair Employment and Housing Council promulgated regulations which set forth the required elements of a compliant prevention and correction program (2 CCR §§ 11023-11024), and in May 2017 the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) issued a Workplace Harassment Guide (the “Guide”) to clarify further employers’ obligations under these regulations. The Guide, which is notable for its detailed explanation of workplace investigation procedures, can be accessed here.
On November 21, 2016, the EEOC announced the release of new enforcement guidance addressing national origin discrimination. Like many enforcement initiatives of late, the update is intended to address current cultural issues and legal developments. It updates an EEOC compliance manual section from 2002 (Volume II, Section 13: National Origin Discrimination). The EEOC also issued a small business fact sheet and a Q-and-A document.
On November 3, 2015, Houston voters rejected Proposition 1, a broadly-worded human rights ordinance that would have made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of, among other things, gender identity. Opposition to that ordinance coalesced around the issue of restrooms, with many citizens expressing fear that the law would allow men to use women’s restrooms.