Proposed EEOC Guidance on Harassment

The EEOC issued a proposed enforcement guidance in January 2017 to “explain the legal standards for unlawful harassment and employer liability.” It is intended to help employers and employees recognize instances of harassment and respond appropriately. Harassment violates federal law only under the following conditions:

1. The conduct was based on the complainant’s legally protected status, or even the perception that they have such status. Protected statuses include race, national origin, religion, sex, age, or disability.

2. The conduct was sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment.

3. There is a basis for holding the employer liable for the hostile work environment.

To prevent incidences of harassment, the EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace recommends that employers have clear policies against such conduct in writing, provide training on the matter, and establish “trusted and accessible complaint procedures” that employees feel safe initiating.
Since a determination of harassment “depends on the specific facts of each case,” it is worth the time to peruse the example situations outlined in the guidance. The document is available for public comment until March 21st. To read the full text or provide input, please visit: