Thirty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court held in the landmark case of Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson that workplace harassment was an actionable form of discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Several examples of common harassment and discrimination that take place in the workplace are sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, racial discrimination, and age discrimination (under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act or ADEA). Recently, the EEOC issued a report encouraging employers to be more proactive in preventing workplace harassment.
In January 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission created a Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace (“Select Task Force”). This Select Task Force spent 18 months examining the myriad and complex issues associated with harassment in the workplace. In June 2016, the Select Task Force published its findings. The report calls for employers to “reboot” workplace harassment prevention methods. The report also outlines statistics, risks and administrative recommendations.
The study encourages employers to assess their workplaces for the risks associated with harassment, survey employees. Further, the report urges employers to hold accountable managers and supervisors for preventing and reacting to grievances while also actively promoting diversity.
Interestingly, the report also states that employers should be wary of “zero tolerance” anti-harassment policies that are used as a one-size fits all model. Rather, any discipline that might result from such policy violations should be proportionate to the offense.
Additionally, the report finds that employers should also consider including a social media policy that ties into their anti-harassment policies. The downside to this however is that the National Labor Relations Board has released guidelines on drafting and updating social media policies. Some cases have held that such a policy may violate an employee’s right to engage in protected concerted activity.
In conclusion, the findings state that the name of the game is truly harassment prevention. This may prove challenging as labor and employment laws are not logical and often do not follow common sense. To this end, seeking experienced legal counsel is critical.
Should you have questions, or wish to seek counsel, call Gilbert Law Group today at (631)630-0100.