EEOC publishes best practices for preventing, responding to sexual harassment
- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released a new document identifying five core principles for addressing and preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.
- The principles are "promising practices," rather than official guidance or legal requirements. They include: 1) committed and engaged leadership; 2) consistent accountability; 3) strong harassment policies; 4) trusted, accessible complaint procedures; and 5) regular, interactive and tailored training.
- The task force that drafted the document cites leadership and accountability as hallmarks of a successful harassment prevention program. Leaders can show their commitment by, among other actions: 1) clearly and frequently communicating that harassment is prohibited; 2) enforcing and complying with their organization's anti-discrimination policies; and 3) allocating enough resources to make their harassment strategies effective.
EEOC's core principles for preventing sexual harassment come at a critical time when victims of sexual misconduct are beginning to speak out about their encounters, call out perpetrators and express the need for proactive prevention.
The document is just one of many recent actions stakeholders have taken to address the issue in recent weeks. At an American Bar Association conference earlier this month, EEOC Commissioners Victoria Lipnic and Chai Feldblum reasserted the right of employees to bring harassment charges to court through the EEOC.
And Pennsylvania Democrats last week proposed a bill that removes non-disclosure agreements that have protected alleged violators from public exposure and liability for decades. State Senator Judy Schwank (D) and a handful of Democratic legislators will introduce SB 999, which is aimed at alleged abusers with power and authority over subordinate victims.
Meanwhile, HR should respond promptly to workers' complaints of misconduct, set and vigorously enforce sexual harassment and misconduct policies, and encourage victims and witnesses to come forth by establishing safe, proprietary reporting procedures.