Recently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued the results of a study of workplace harassment. The agency convened a task force to conduct this study in January 2015. The task force issued a report in June 2016. Task Force Report. It concluded that since the Supreme Court recognized that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits sexual harassment as a form of employment discrimination 30 years ago, “we have come a far way since that day, but sadly and too often still have far to go.” The report addresses not only sexual harassment, but also workplace harassment claims based on any one or more of race, disability, color, age, national origin, ethnicity, or religion.
Workplace Harassment Poses a Very Real and Costly Business Risk
The task force’s study examined the current scope of unlawful harassment in American workforces. It noted that about one-third of the nearly 90,000 discrimination charges filed with the EEOC in fiscal year 2015 included workplace harassment allegations. Those filing harassment charges represent the tip of the iceberg, because “[r]oughly three of four individuals who experienced harassment never even talked to a supervisor, manager, or union representative about the harassing conduct.” The report identifies the following reasons for the underreporting of unlawful harassment claims: fear of disbelief of claims, fear of inaction on complaints, blame, ostracism, or retaliation. Workers, instead, develop their own work-arounds, such as avoiding the harasser, denying or downplaying the seriousness of the situation, ignoring, forgetting, or enduring the behavior. It finds the filing of a discrimination charge or pursuit of formal action through an employer’s complaint procedure to be “the least common response to harassment.” (more…)