According to new EEOC chair Jenny R. Yang in a recent meeting of the EEOC Commissioners, approximately 30% of all charges of discrimination the EEOC receives include allegations of workplace harassment. Recognizing this as a persistent problem, Ms. Yang emphasized that the EEOC is diligently working to leverage its considerable resources to target workplace harassment.
The EEOC’s attempt to address workplace harassment takes a bifurcated approach. First, the EEOC is dedicating resources to outreach and education. Indeed, the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan for FY2013-2016 incorporates provisions for an outreach campaign aimed at both educating employers and employees. Ms. Yang also announced the formation of a task force to broadly identify effective strategies and education initiatives to prevent and remedy harassment in the workplace.
Second, and likely more acutely felt by employers, the EEOC intends to vigorously pursue systemic enforcement to promote broader voluntary compliance. That is, utilizing enforcement and litigation proceedings to remedy alleged workplace harassment.
The tenor of the meeting and of various comments made suggests mounting frustration at the prevalence of workplace harassment complaints some 50 years after Title VII was first enacted in 1964. For employers, that mounting frustration may warrant increased caution in handling workplace issues and, in particular, in addressing allegations of harassment.