EEOC Harassment Findings and Recommendations for Employers

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), harassment is a form of employment discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.

Harassment is at the center of many workplace discrimination claims today. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, the EEOC secured a record amount of recovery of more than $535 million for victims of discrimination in the workplace, resolving more than 70,804 workplace discrimination charges. Notably, the EEOC recovered around $84.4 million for 902 victims of harassment through its litigation program from these charges.

According to the agency, prevention is the best tool to eliminate harassment in the workplace. This article provides EEOC findings on workplace harassment and prevention recommendations for employers to review.

EEOC Harassment Findings

In 2015, the EEOC created the Commission’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace, known as the “Select Task Force,” which was established to gain insights from a range of experts on preventing harassment. The Select Task Force then published key findings and recommendations from the study, which are summarized below.

Workplace Harassment Remains a Persistent Problem

Today, a substantial portion of workplace discrimination claims include an allegation of workplace harassment. These include, among other claims, charges of unlawful harassment on the basis of sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity and pregnancy), race, disability, age, ethnicity or national origin, color and religion. While there is robust data and academic literature on sex-based harassment, more research is needed regarding harassment on other protected bases.

Workplace Harassment Often Goes Unreported

Common workplace-based responses by those who experience sex-based harassment are to avoid the harasser; deny or downplay the gravity of the situation; or attempt to ignore, forget or endure the behavior. The least common response to harassment is to take some formal action—either to report the harassment internally or file a formal legal complaint. Roughly 3 out of 4 individuals who experience harassment never talk to a supervisor, manager or union representative about the harassing conduct.

Many employees who experience harassment fail to report the harassing behavior or file a complaint because they fear disbelief in their claim, inaction on their claim, blame, or social or professional retaliation.

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