On Monday, June 20, 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) held a meeting at its headquarters in Washington, D.C. to present findings of the Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace. Authors of the report, EEOC Commissioners Chai R. Feldblum and Victoria A. Lipnic, underlined their study and recommendations for addressing workplace harassment.
Eighteen months ago the Select Task Force was formed to identify key issues related to harassment in the workplace. The Task Force included a diverse group of legal specialists, social scientists, employees and employers, and others, who provided expertise and listened to witness testimony during a series of public and private hearings held throughout the past year-and-a-half.
According to the report, existing efforts and policies to prevent harassment in the workplace have been largely ineffective. Nearly one-third of the complaints received by the EEOC in 2015 involved workplace harassment. About 75 percent of those who experience harassment never report the misconduct.
In addition to strengthening and reviewing existing programs, the study recommended the implementation of civility and bystander intervention training. Civility training can reduce harassment by promoting work environments where employees are treated with respect and dignity. Bystander intervention initiatives are meant to empower coworkers to speak up when they observe inappropriate or offensive behavior. Additionally suggested is the creation of a nationwide “It’s on Us” initiative, similar to the national campaign to reduce sexual violence on college campuses through witness intervention. Such a program could promote a culture of shared responsibility to stop harassment in the workplace.
The report stressed the importance of leadership in preventing harassment. Management must initiate and be involved in harassment prevention efforts and accountability systems.
At the meeting, Commissioners Lipnic and Feldblum advocated for each of these measures as part of a holistic approach to curb workplace harassment.
Panelists included members of the Select Task Force, Joseph M. Sellers and Rae T. Vann, as well as Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, Lilia Cortina and President of Sepler & Associates, Fran Sepler. Chair of the EEOC Jenny R. Yang was also in attendance.
The full report may be accessed on the EEOC website here.
An executive summary of the report may be accessed here.
More information on the meeting as well as full written testimonies of the panelists may be accessed here.