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New EEOC guidance emphasizes hostile environment harassment

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

The EEOC has issued new proposed enforcement guidance addressing unlawful harassment. Doubling down on last summer’s report by the EEOC Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace, the guidance calls harassment a persistent work problem. Almost one-third of the roughly 90,000 charges filed with EEOC in FY 2015 included an allegation of harassment.

The guidance positions harassment not just as a problem of individuals behaving badly, but as a systemic issue that employers must address. It focuses heavily on identifying misconduct so severe or pervasive that it creates a hostile work environment. The EEOC says three components are necessary to support such a claim:

1. Covered bases and causation: Was the conduct based on the complainant’s legally protected status?

2. Hostile work environment threshold: Was the conduct sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment?

3. Liability: Is there a basis for holding the employer liable for the hostile work environment?

Download the guidance at www.regulations.gov/docket?D=EEOC-2016-0009. A public comment period runs until Feb. 9.

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