EEOC Issues New Guidance on Harassment Hot Topics



Practice Areas

Caleb J. Holloway
Robinson Bradshaw Publication
May 20, 2024

On April 29, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued new, modernized guidance on workplace harassment prevention and intervention. EEOC guidance materials such as these are not themselves the law. However, the EEOC will refer to and rely on these documents when investigating charges of discrimination, harassment and retaliation filed by employees. For that reason, employers can use them as a reference point when crafting and applying their own human resources policies and practices.

The EEOC guidance addresses several timely and sensitive issues, including gender identity and expression; religious objections to use of preferred pronouns; religious coercion; and abortion, contraception, lactation and other pregnancy-related matters. Indeed, the document also includes vivid example scenarios, based on real cases from this century, to illustrate its guidance.

Key Takeaways from the EEOC’s New Guidance for Private Employers

The EEOC often relies on its own guidance, which may differ from the decisions of district and circuit courts, when reviewing the alleged facts in a charge of harassment and issuing determinations.

According to the new guidance, the following behaviors are unlawful harassment requiring an employer to intervene:

This is only a smattering of what is covered in the guidance document, which also explains that, to be considered unlawful, harassment and hostile work environment complaints need to be tied to a legally protected characteristic (meaning, race, color, religion, sex — including gender and gender identity or expression — national origin, age, disability or genetic information). Some of the scenarios are set in the virtual workplace, or even on social media outside of the workplace.

The guidance document also covers the EEOC’s view of what it takes for employers’ policies, complaint processes and trainings to be considered effective.

Practical Tips for Private Employers

Proactive steps employers can take to minimize the potential for, and viability of, claims concerning harassment and hostile work environments include:

For assistance evaluating and considering changes to your harassment policies and practices in light of this new EEOC guidance, contact a member of Robinson Bradshaw’s Employment & Labor Practice Group.

Main Menu