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Legal Alert! EEOC Unveils Finalized Workplace Harassment Guidance

On Monday, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has taken a significant step by publishing final guidance on harassment in the workplace, titled “Enforcement Guidance on Harassment in the Workplace.” This comprehensive resource, which covers the legal standards and employer liability applicable to harassment claims under the federal employment discrimination laws enforced by the EEOC, is a crucial tool for ensuring workplace safety and promoting respectful environments.


These laws, which are designed to foster a safe and inclusive work environment, protect covered employees from harassment based on a wide range of factors, including race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions; sexual orientation; and gender identity), national origin, disability, age (40 or older) or genetic information.


Since the Commission last issued guidance on workplace harassment, the legal landscape has evolved, and new challenges have emerged, including the issue of online harassment. The new guidance is designed to address these changes and provide a comprehensive understanding of the evolving nature of workplace harassment. The terms “harassment” and “harassing conduct” refer to conduct that can, but does not necessarily always, constitute or contribute to unlawful harassment, including a hostile work environment. Not all harassing conduct violates the law, even if it is because of a legally protected characteristic.


The new guidance results from a collaborative effort by the EEOC, updating, consolidating, and replacing the agency's five guidance documents previously issued. It serves as a single, unified agency resource on EEOC-enforced workplace harassment law, reflecting the Commission's careful consideration of the robust public input that it received after the guidance was posted for public comment.


More than a third of all discrimination charges received by the EEOC in the last five years included an allegation of harassment based on race, sex, disability, or another characteristic covered by the laws enforced by the agency. Harassment has also been alleged in over half of federal sector equal employment opportunity complaints.


The guidance reflects the EEOC’s commitment to protecting particularly vulnerable persons and persons from underserved communities from employment discrimination. It also illustrates how employees may be subjected to unlawful harassment not only by coworkers or supervisors but also by customers, contractors, and other third parties.


In addition, the guidance addresses the growth of virtual work environments and the increasing impact of digital technology and social media on workplace harassment. This long-awaited publication of the EEOC's "Enforcement Guidance on Harassment in the Workplace" marks a pivotal moment in advancing workplace equality and safety. As the landscape of harassment evolves, it's imperative for employers and employees to stay informed and proactive in fostering inclusive environments. For assistance in navigating these changes effectively, reach out to OmniaHR today.


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