What Uber, Fox News and Silicon Valley didn’t know? NEW EEOC Guidance to Address Harassment in the Workplace


Executive Summary

Within the past year, Uber, Fox News and several Silicon Valley corporations have all faced numerous allegations of harassment and discrimination, conducted hours of investigations, and ultimately terminated high level employees. All of this has eroded employee morale, generated significant legal and production costs, and ultimately jeopardized the companies’ reputations. After decades of education, training and litigation over workplace harassment and discrimination, why haven’t the lessons been learned? Is the prevalence of harassment in the workplace really no less than it was thirty years ago?

In order to address this question, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) created a Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace. The Task Force included a diverse range of representatives, including employers, attorneys, academics, employee advocates and organized labor. The Task Force focused on prevention of harassment in the workplace and examined workplace behaviors which tend to lead to unlawful harassment.

The Task Force Report, which was issued in June of 2016, was authored by Co-Chairs Victoria A. Lipnic, now acting Chair of the EEOC, and Chai R. Feldblum. The Report concluded that workplace harassment, including harassment based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, disability, age, ethnicity, color and religion, remains a persistent problem which, if left unchecked, will lead to significant costs to businesses.

Commissioner Feldblum’s Chief of Staff, Sharon Masling, will report on the context of the Report and discuss EEOC recommendations and tools to aid businesses in designing effective anti-harassment policies, develop training curricula and create an organizational culture in which harassment is not tolerated and employees are held accountable. These recommendations and insights directly from the EEOC are designed to decrease employee turnover, increase employee productivity and decrease reputational harm to a business.

These areas will be further discussed by our distinguished panelists of business leaders, HR consultants and attorneys, who will address how to assess risk factors; how to implement effective training and reporting; how to create a workplace culture ensuring that anti-harassment and discrimination are not tolerated; and how to decrease exposure to liability. The panel will examine the business and employee costs of tolerating harassment in the workplace and hear from Maryland business leaders who have reduced harassment in the workplace and share how they created a culture of civility in the workplace.

When the EEOC publishes guidance for businesses, you should pay attention. This program will help you understand what’s on the EEOC’s mind and what their expectations are for compliance.

Leadership and Accountability are Paramount – Workplace culture has the greatest impact on allowing or preventing harassment. Commitment to a safe and respectful workplace by the company leadership means ensuring that anti-harassment efforts are given the necessary time and resources to be effective.

Harassment training must change – New and different approaches to reducing exposure to liability. Developing effective anti-harassment policies and training curricula are paramount to reducing harassment in the workplace. Discuss ideas for new training on respectful workplaces and bystander intervention.

Tools recommended by the EEOC – New reporting and investigation procedures that ensure employees are held accountable; checklists on leadership accountability and harassment investigation.

EEOC enforcement going forward – Identify EEOC risk factors and strategies to reduce harassment. How can a business implement these recommendations and decrease the exposure of harassment in the workplace.