On April 29, 2024, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued updated Enforcement Guidance on Harassment in the workplace. The guidance, which hadn’t been updated since 1999, addresses harassment claims that have arisen over the past several years. For example, the updated guidance addresses harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity including outing a coworker’s sexual orientation or gender identity and denying a worker’s access to a bathroom or other sex-segregated facility based on the individual’s gender identity. The guidance also addresses other sex-based harassment dealing with pregnancy and breast feeding and harassment of employees who work remotely. 

Examples of Harassment 

The EEOC enforces laws that prohibit harassment in the workplace. The harassment must be based on a protected characteristic, including race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age and genetic information. Being rude, teasing or mistreating somebody because of a personality conflict, without a connection to a protected characteristic, does not violate the laws enforced by the EEOC.  

Harassment can take many forms, including: 

  • Saying or writing an ethnic, racial or sex-based slur. 
  • Forwarding an offensive or derogatory “joke” email. 
  • Displaying offensive material (such as a noose, swastika or other hate symbols, or offensive cartoons, photographs or graffiti); 
  • Threatening or intimidating a person because of the person’s religious beliefs or lack of religious beliefs. 
  • Sharing pornography or sexually demeaning depictions of people, including AI-generated and deepfake images and videos. 
  • Making comments based on stereotypes about older workers. 
  • Mimicking a person’s disability. 
  • Mocking a person’s accent. 
  • Making fun of a person’s religious garments, jewelry or displays. 
  • Asking intrusive questions about a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, gender transition or intimate body parts. 
  • Groping, touching or otherwise physically assaulting a person. 
  • Making sexualized gestures or comments, even when this behavior is not motivated by a desire to have sex with the victim. 
  • Threatening a person’s job or offering preferential treatment in exchange for sexual favors. 

What Employers Need to Know 

Employers have an obligation to comply with EEOC regulations and it’s important to note that harassment by any person, including coworkers, customers and clients, can violate federal law. Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC laws (20 employees in age discrimination cases). Most labor unions and employment agencies are also covered. And the EEOC has the authority to investigate charges of harassment against those employers. If the EEOC finds harassment has occurred, it will try to settle the charge via mediation or by taking legal action if necessary.  

Steps to Prevent Harassment 

The EEOC encourages employers to take these steps to prevent harassment. 

  • Develop a clear, easy-to-understand anti-harassment policy. 
  • Have a safe and effective procedure that employees can use to report harassment, including more than one option for reporting. 
  • Provide recurring training to all employees, including supervisors and managers, about the company’s anti-harassment policy and complaint process. 
  • Take steps to ensure the anti-harassment policy and complaint process are being followed. 

The EEOC also advises that employers should consider if their workers experience barriers to comprehension, including limited ability to speak English, to read or to understand the material, when the employers are creating, revising or assessing the effectiveness of an anti-harassment policy, reporting procedures or training. 

How Arcoro can Help 

Along with reporting harassment, employers can use Arcoro’s Learning Management System (LMS) to deliver training to employees in harassment prevention. Through our partnership with Training ABC, customers have access to expert-designed harassment training, including state-specific courses. Managers can create learning plans for harassment training. Administrators can also upload their own training courses using SCORM, AICC and xAPI formats. Employees can access the training 24/7 to learn in their own time and completions are stored in our secure, cloud-based software. 

Taking steps to prevent workplace harassment can lead to a more productive, inclusive working environment. 

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Contact us to see how our LMS and other compliance solutions can help. 

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