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Defining unlawful harassment is not as cut and dried as it may appear. In order for harassment to be considered unlawful, it must be based on someone’s status as part of a protected class under Title VII. In a final ruling of “Enforcement Guidance on Harassment in the Workplace” published on April 29, 2024, the EEOC lists 77 examples of how unlawful harassment can occur. The document shows the intricate interplay among various factors used to determine definitions around harassment, such as if it has created a hostile environment and if reasonable corrective action was taken among other important concepts.

With 77 examples and lengthy legal research and guidance to support each one, this publication would probably lull even the geekiest of policy geeks into a peaceful slumber, but new guidance does bring up some new and interesting questions that remain to be answered. One of these has to do with when an employee requests that an employer not investigate a complaint. Many organizations have a policy that dictates all complaints are investigated. The new guidance suggests that this may not be reasonable if investigating would exacerbate an existing problem. There are also implications for employee bathrooms and misgendering in the new publication and this has been met with resistance from 20 attorneys general in the United States. 

Employers should give their current anti-harassment policies a glance to ensure that they are inclusive and robust and should also be prepared to potentially make adjustments to the workplace as prevention measures. Seems murky, right? We agree! If you have questions about how this could impact your business, please reach out to us at The People Perspective, where we read the boring stuff so you don’t have to!

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