EEOC revives task force on sexual harassment

The EEOC has reconvened its Select Task Force on Sexual Harassment in response to the momentum generated by the #MeToo movement. Originally established in 2015, the task force issued a landmark report in 2016 outlining best practices for employers to follow to combat workplace sexual harassment.

The June 11 kick-off meeting for the revived task force was titled “Transforming #MeToo into Harassment-Free Workplaces: A Reconvening of the EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace.”

EEOC Commissioner Chai R. Feldblum told the group, “Our challenge is to use this #MeToo moment well. We have a road map given the work we have done at the EEOC. We have the attention and commitment of the range of different actors in society that we need. Together, we can channel that energy to create significant and sustainable change.”

According to Suzanne Hultin of the National Conference of State Legislatures, 125 pieces of legislation have been introduced this year in 32 states to combat sexual harassment, punish perpetrators and assist victims.

Many states are looking to go beyond federal law to prevent workplace sexual harassment.

Elizabeth Tippett, a law professor at the University of Oregon, called for a broader focus on gender discrimination and retaliation against women who file complaints. She said, “It would be a mistake for employers and state legislators to limit their response exclusively to sexual harassment. In doing so, they risk laying a foundation for the next crisis.”

Employers that fail to examine their sexual harassment policies in light of the #MeToo movement may be caught flat-footed. The 2016 task force report emphasized the importance of seeking to change employee behavior, not attitudes. It argued for bystander training that empowers employees who see harassment to report it.

Online resource Read the task force’s 2016 report at www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/task_force/harassment/report.cfm.

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