The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been busy! The agency continues to focus on sexual harassment in America’s workplaces as recent press releases demonstrate:
- On June 13, 2018, the EEOC announceda multimillion-dollar sexual discrimination settlement against a transportation supplier. The case alleged that the employer conducted employment testing, including strength testing, for certain positions that unfairly discriminated against female workers. The employer must pay $3.2 million into a settlement fund for wages and benefits lost by women in over 20 states who were denied positions because of the employer’s employment testing. The settlement also requires the employer to stop the allegedly discriminatory testing practices.
- One day later, the EEOC announcedseven sexual harassment lawsuits filed against employers located throughout the U.S., including two in Southern California. Although the allegations of each lawsuit are different, the common theme is that employees were subjected to sexual comments and touching in the workplace. In some cases, the employers knew about the conduct and allowed it to happen, and in one case, the alleged harasser was a high-level executive.
- The day after that, the EEOC announceda lawsuit filed against an employer for repeatedly sexually harassing female employees and then retaliating against an employee for opposing the harassment.
- Less than a week later, the EEOC announcedanother settlement, this time of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against a staffing company.
These lawsuits remind employers of the risk that comes with not addressing harassing conduct in the workplace.
“As the nation has seen over the past nine months, harassment at work can affect individuals for years in their careers and livelihoods,” said EEOC Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic, in a press release. “There are many consequences that flow from harassment not being addressed in our nation’s workplaces. These suits filed by the EEOC around the country are a reminder that a federal enforcement action by the EEOC is potentially one of those consequences.”
Employers in California have an affirmative duty to prevent harassment in the workplace. As Christopher Green, director of the EEOC’s San Diego Local Office, explained in another press release, “The #MeToo movement has brought awareness of how power imbalances in the workplace lend themselves to sexual harassment. Employers must understand that they are accountable for the abuse of their employees.”
Harassment Prevention Training
California companies with 50 or more employees are required by law to provide two hours of sexual harassment prevention training to all supervisors in California within six months of hire or promotion, and every two years thereafter.
Regardless of company size, providing harassment prevention training for all supervisors and employees can be a valuable tool for employers.