EEOC publishes best practices for preventing, responding to sexual harassment
- The co-chairs of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)'s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace identified five core principles for addressing and preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.
- The principles are "promising practices," rather than official guidance or legal requirements. They include: 1) committed and engaged leadership; 2) consistent accountability; 3) strong harassment policies; 4) trusted, accessible complaint procedures; and 5) regular, interactive and tailored training.
- The task force cites leadership and accountability as hallmarks of a successful harassment prevention program. Leaders can show their commitment by, among other actions: 1) clearly and frequently communicating that harassment is prohibited; 2) enforcing and complying with their organization's anti-discrimination policies; and 3) allocating enough resources to make their harassment strategies effective.
EEOC's core principles for preventing sexual harassment come at a critical time when victims of sexual misconduct are beginning to speak out about their encounters, call out perpetrators and express the need for proactive prevention.
Though perhaps less publicized, the construction industry isn't immune to gender-based harassment. Despite making up only 9% of total industry employment, nearly 60% of women in construction report being harassed at work. Even more experience harassment but do not report such incidents for fear of repercussions.
Instances of harassment, whether sexual or hostile, can deter women from the construction trades long before they set foot on the job site. Inappropriate emails, face-to-face interactions, gestures, touching and even "jokes" that undermine a female employee's ability to enjoy an inclusive work environment can all discourage women from entering into or staying in the industry.
For male-dominated fields like construction, it's critical that employers implement policies to combat such harassment and create safeguards against those who abuse those policies.
Pennsylvania state Democrats took a bold step last week toward preventing sexual misconduct by proposing a bill that removes non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) that have protected alleged violators from public exposure and liability for decades. State Senator Judy Schwank (D) and a handful of Democratic legislators will introduce SB 999, aimed at alleged abusers with power and authority over subordinate victims.
EEOC commissioners haven't been quiet about the issue, either. At an American Bar Association conference earlier this month, Commissioners Victoria Lipnic and Chai Feldblum reasserted the right of employees to bring harassment charges to court through the EEOC. Meanwhile, HR should respond promptly to workers' complaints of misconduct, set and vigorously enforce sexual harassment and misconduct policies, and encourage victims and witnesses to come forth by establishing safe, proprietary reporting procedures.
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