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EEOC Releases Final Guidance to Prevent Workplace Harassment 

On April 29, 2024, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published its final guidance on harassment in the workplace, “Enforcement Guidance on Harassment in the Workplace.” The guidance provides information on the legal standards and employer liability applicable to harassment claims under federal employment discrimination laws enforced by the EEOC and is intended to assist employers in creating respectful workplaces. 

The new guidance updates, consolidates, and replaces the agency’s previous guidance documents issued between 1987 and 1999, and serves as a single, unified agency resource on EEOC-enforced workplace harassment law.  

Key highlights in the guidance include: 

  • Broad protections for LGBTQ+ workers ;
  • Clarification that pregnancy and childbirth can be included in “sex-based” harassment; 
  • Clarification on protections for religious expression; 
  • The growth of virtual work environments and the increasing impact of digital technology and social media on how harassment occurs in the work environment; and
  • Guidance for employers on updating their harassment policies.

The guidance also includes over 70 examples illustrating unlawful harassment, including situations involving older workers, immigrant workers, and survivors of gender-based violence. It also illustrates how employees may be subjected to unlawful harassment not only by coworkers or supervisors, but also by customers, contractors, and other third parties. 

This guidance went into effect immediately and supersedes earlier EEOC guidance documents. 

Along with the updated guidance, the EEOC has issued several educational resources, including a “Summary of Key Provisions”, a document for employees, and a fact sheet for small businesses

Next Steps 

Although the guidance is not considered law, it provides insight into how courts analyze harassment claims and how the EEOC will investigate them. As a result, employers need to ensure that they take prompt and effective corrective action in response to complaints of harassment. As a result, employers should carefully review the guidance to assess its impact on their operations and to take steps to comply. Specifically, employers should: 

  • Review and update their anti-harassment policies and procedures to ensure that they comply with the updated guidance; 
  • Establish a confidential complaint process for employees to report harassment; 
  • Provide training to all employees on the updated guidance and their rights and responsibilities under the law; 
  • Create a culture of respect and zero tolerance for harassment in the workplace; 
  • Implement a robust system for investigating and responding to complaints of harassment; and 
  • Reevaluate their investigation and disciplinary procedures for harassment claims to ensure that they comply with the proposed guidance. 

How HR Works Can Help 

HR Works can assist by providing a legally reviewed employee handbook which includes a Harassment and Discrimination Prevention policy, in addition to assisting with annual harassment training and conducting investigations. Current Virtual Helpline clients may contact the Virtual Helpline for additional information and HR Strategic Services clients may contact their designated HR Strategic Partner for additional information. 

Non-HR Works clients may reach out to learn more about HR Works’ services including employee handbooks, investigation support, customized training, and our LMS system by visiting our website and completing a “Contact Us” form or calling us toll-free at 1-877-219-9062. 

HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.