EEOC Soon to Issue New Sexual Harassment Guidelines

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Nov 10, 2017
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

And here I thought we’d be able to make it to the weekend without another above-the-fold allegation of sexual harassment.

Fortunately, I have some other helpful, related items…

New sexual-harassment guidance from the EEOC coming soon

Jacquie Lee reporting for Bloomberg Law’s Daily Labor Report (subscription required) writes that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has announced that, by pure coincidence, new guidance on sexual harassment is coming to help your workplace:

“The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated its sexual harassment guidelines for the first time in over 20 years, agency leaders told an audience of lawyers Nov. 9.

“The update comes up at a time of burgeoning publicity for sexual harassment and assault in the workplace, but that is is ‘purely coincidental,’ Victoria Lipnic (R), the EEOC’s acting chair told Bloomberg Law. …

“The new guidance incorporates public opinion the commission received over the last few years…The commission unanimously approved the new guidelines Nov. 7 and the next day sent them to the Office of Management and Budget for approval. After the guidance moves through the OMB it will become public. Those guidelines will help steer employers’ sexual harassment prevention policies.”

Meanwhile, in Congress…

U.S. Senate requires sexual harassment training…for the U.S. Senate

Susan Davis at NPR reports that “Thursday evening the Senate approved a resolution mandating sexual harassment prevention training for all employees of the Senate, including senators.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is a co-sponsor of this bipartisan Senate resolution which would convert existing optional training to mandatory.

The NPR story notes that “Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., was the first to come forward with her story in late October as part of the #MeToo social media awareness campaign. She posted a YouTube video in which she recounted harassment she endured decades ago as a young Capitol Hill aide.”

Also, “this week, Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., put her chief of staff on administrative leave pending a formal review after three female staffers came forward with complaints against him.”

Additionally, Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore now stands accused of sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl in the 1970s.

Here’s what you thought about requiring C-suite candidates to air their dirty laundry.

Yesterday (here), I asked readers for input on the question of whether companies should require C-Suite candidates to “affirm that they have never been accused of sexual harassment or other discriminatory behavior at work.”

The responses — thank you — varied.

Many were in favor and thought this didn’t go far enough. That is, these reps and warranties should include all other harassing conduct like workplace bullying.

Others were concerned that asking someone to cop to an accusation — especially one that’s unconfirmed — is unfair and prejudicial. Indeed, if the applicant was accused and the matter settled confidentially, perhaps a business decision, that person may be contractually obligated not to discuss the situation. Therefore, it would be fairer to require an applicant to confirm “no founded allegations of discrimination or harassment in their work history.”

Some wouldn’t ask the question at all. That is, even someone with sexual harassment in their past may have learned from their mistakes and changed their ways. Therefore, requiring that person to abide by current policies, and enforce those policies, should be enough.

What do I think? Well, I’m undecided. But, here’s where I’m leaning. Just as you wouldn’t ask anyone if they’ve ever been arrested (as opposed to convicted of a felony or misdemeanor), maybe, a company should limit the inquiries as follows:

“Have you ever been accused of discrimination or other similar workplace conduct from which you received some form of discipline, up to and including termination of employment? If yes, please provide details.”

What do you think? Email me, because I’d still like to hear from you about this.

This article originally appeared on The Employer Handbook blog.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.