In the US, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued new guidelines last month to address how harassment based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; sexual orientation; and gender identity), national origin, age, disability or genetic information is defined and liability is determined. 

While none of these laws are new, over 33% of the charges of discrimination in the last 5 years included allegations of harassment, so the EEOC issued consolidated guidelines with over 70 examples.  All of these should be part of your workplace policies AND have supporting education and coaching on do’s and don’ts as part of your DEI work so everyone can feel safe at work and be able to contribute as their full, authentic selves.

Here are some of the key takeaways, sourced directly from the EEOC:

  • Race: use of racial epithets, offensive comments and stereotypes as well as harassment based on traits or characteristics linked to an individual’s race including name, cultural dress, accent, manner of speech, and physical and appearance standards such as hairstyles and textures

  • Color: harassment based on an individual’s pigmentation, complexion, skin shade or tone

  • National Origin: use of ethnic epithets; derogatory comments about a person’s nationality, stereotypes, traits, physical and linguistic characteristics including diet, attire and accent

  • Religion: use of religious epithets; offensive comments about an individual’s religion or lack of religious belief, religious practices or dress or religious accommodation; and explicitly or implicitly coercing employees to engage in religious practices at work

  • Sex (includes pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions; sexual orientation; gender identity): unwanted conduct expressing sexual attraction or involving sexual activity, sexual attention or coercion, sexual violence, discussing or displaying visual depictions of sex acts or sexual remarks; lactation; using or not using contraception; deciding to have or not have an abortion; how sexual orientation or gender identity is expressed including epithets, outing an individual, intentional use of a name or pronoun inconsistent with the individual’s known gender identity, or denial of access to a bathroom or other sex-segregated facility consistent with the individual’s gender identity

  • Age: harassment of employees over 40 years of age including those based on negative perceptions or stereotypes about older workers

  • Disability:  includes physical and mental disability stereotypes, traits and characteristics; harassment based on a request for and/or receipt of accommodation; harassment because of an impairment even if it is not a disability; harassment based on the disability of someone with whom an individual is associated

  • Genetic Information: harassment based on an individual’s or family member’s genetic test or medical history

If you are not certain whether behavior toward you or others in the workplace, on social media or at workplace-related events and locations is considered harassment please contact your Human Resources leader or an employment lawyer.

For more details on EEOC guidelines on workplace harassment click here.
Need help determining how to best develop your DEI plans and programs to deliver high-impact, measurable results?  Contact us here.

by Michelle Bogan

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