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EEOC Data Indicates Increase in Sexual Harassment Claims
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released preliminary sexual harassment data for FY2018, which ended September 30. The report illustrates that the EEOC has been, in the words of the EEOC, “vigorously enforcing the law” in the wake of the #MeToo movement. The data indicates an increase in sexual harassment charges and EEOC lawsuits, and a dramatic increase in the amount paid to settle sexual harassment charges. 

Highlights from the report include:
  • The EEOC filed 66 harassment lawsuits – 41 included allegations of sexual harassment.
  • Sexual harassment charges increased 12% – the first increase in at least 8 years.
  • Reasonable cause findings in harassment cases increased 23%.
  • The EEOC recovered nearly $70 million for the victims of sexual harassment through “litigation and administrative enforcement” in FY2018, up from $47.5 million in FY2017.

Employers should expect the EEOC to continue aggressively investigating harassment claims. Employers should also expect increased enforcement activity from state and local agencies, in addition to a rise in private lawsuits alleging claims of harassment. For these reasons, employers should be proactive and vigilant.

In 2016, the EEOC’s “Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace” published a report offering employers suggestions to prevent harassment in the workplace. Some key recommendations include:
 
Workplace Leadership and Accountability:
  • Assess your workplace for risk factors associated with harassment and explore ideas for minimizing those risks.
  • Conduct “climate surveys” to assess the extent to which harassment is a problem within your organization.
  • Ensure that where harassment is found to have occurred, discipline is prompt and proportionate to the severity of the infraction, consistent, and does not give (or create the appearance of) undue favor to any particular employee.

Harassment Prevention Policies and Procedures:
  • Adopt and maintain a comprehensive anti-harassment policy.
  • Communicate your harassment reporting protocol frequently and in a variety of forms and methods.
  • Be alert for any possibility of retaliation against an employee who reports harassment and take steps to ensure that such retaliation does not occur.

Anti-Harassment Training:
  • Offer compliance trainings on a regular basis.
  • Invest in training for middle-management and first-line supervisors on how to respond effectively to harassment allegations.
  • Consider including workplace civility training and bystander intervention training as part of a holistic harassment prevention program.

If you have any need for guidance in developing employment policies and training programs, or need to respond to discrimination complaints, please contact Nicole Gardner at Nicole@GardnerSkelton.com or Caleb Holloway at Caleb@GardnerSkelton.com.
Alert: "New" FMLA Forms
Employers covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) should by now be using the new forms published by the US Department of Labor (DOL) on September 4, 2018. After some speculation while the DOL delayed publishing new forms, there are no material changes. So, what is new about the forms? The expiration date, which is now August 31, 2021. Use of these forms is not strictly required, but is highly recommended, when dealing with a request for Family and Medical Leave (FML). To access and download the new forms, click here.

If you are not sure whether your company is a covered employer, or if you have questions about FMLA compliance or other employment issues, please contact Nicole Gardner at Nicole@GardnerSkelton.com, or Caleb Holloway at Caleb@GardnerSkelton.com.

 
Gardner Skelton PLLC
505 East Boulevard, Charlotte, NC 28203
704.335.0350 phone / 704.390.7027 fax
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