EEOC Proposes Updated Guidance Designed to Protect Workers from Harassment
On September 29th, 2023, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released comprehensive proposed guidance designed to better protect employees from workplace harassment. The EEOC published the proposed reforms to the Federal Register on October 2nd, 2023 and is currently seeking public comment. Here, our New Jersey hostile work environment attorney provides an overview of the proposed guidance from the EEOC.
The Two Change: LGBTQ Protections and Contraception/Abortion Decision Protections
In an effort to adapt to the ever-evolving landscape of the workforce, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released new guidance concerning workplace harassment. This guidance brings to light two significant changes—broader protections for LGBTQ workers and harassment protections related to contraception and abortion decisions. Here is an overview:
- Broad Protections for LGBTQ Workers: The updated EEOC guidelines emphasizes comprehensive workplace harassment safeguards for LGBTQ employees. The guidance comes after the 2020 Supreme Court decision of Bostock v. Clayton County which confirmed that LGBTQ discrimination is, inherently, a form of sex-based discrimination. The new EEOC guidance highlights the necessity to ensure an inclusive and respectful work environment for all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Notably, the guidance holds that intentional misgendering of an employee and attempt to deny access to a bathroom is consistent with an individual’s gender identity are forms of workplace harassment.
- Contraception/Abortion Decisions: In addition, the new EEOC guidance underscores the critical importance of respecting and protecting employees’ reproductive rights. More specifically, the EEOC states its view that criticism of an employee for their decisions related to contraception and/or abortion can constitute a hostile work environment that is sufficient to support a workplace harassment claim. The EEOC’s guidance holds that employees should not face any form of harassment based on their reproductive health decisions.
EEOC Guidance is Non-Binding, But Can Be Cited in Litigation
Employees should understand the importance of EEOC guidance. The EEOC’s new guidance on workplace harassment regarding LGBTQ and reproductive rights protections―assuming that it makes it through the federal rulemaking process—is not binding. While it provides a valuable framework for employers to follow, it does not carry the direct force of law.
That being said, EEOC guidance matters. The significance should not be underestimated. In the event of litigation involving allegations of workplace discrimination or harassment, courts often look to EEOC guidelines for insight and perspective. Indeed, an employee who brings a workplace harassment claim for a hostile work environment can cite EEOC guidance to support their claim.
Contact Our New Jersey Workplace Harassment Attorney Today
At Poulos LoPiccolo PC, our New Jersey employee rights attorneys have extensive experience handling workplace harassment claims. Our firm is devoted to ensuring that workers receive top tier legal representation. If you were subject to a hostile work environment, we are here to help. Contact us today for a confidential consultation. With an office in Monmouth County, we represent workers in hostile work environment claims throughout the State of New Jersey.