Is Your Organization Taking the Correct Steps to Prevent and Defend Against Harassment Claims? Recent EEOC Guidance Suggests Best Practices

by Dickinson Wright

Dickinson Wright

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, most employers have become more acutely aware of the risks involved in failing to effectively prevent and respond to claims of workplace harassment.  This renewed awareness should cause all employers, large and small, to evaluate their policies, processes and practices in place to prevent harassment and to respond to claims of unlawful harassment.  Recently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued helpful guidelines outlining employer best practices to combat workplace harassment.

In Promising Practices for Preventing Workplace Harassment, the EEOC provides a user-friendly summary of the EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace, Report of the Co-Chairs (Chai R. Feldblum & Victoria A. Lipnic, 2016).  In that report, the authors identified “core principles” that had proven effective for employer efforts to prevent and respond to workplace harassment.  These core principles suggest certain best practices to assist employers in developing and/or revising an anti-harassment strategies, and include the following:

  1. “Leadership and Accountability”: Simply stated, no effort to prevent and effectively address workplace harassment is likely to succeed without the commitment of the organization’s senior leadership team.  Human Resource professionals often are the appropriate individuals to lead anti-harassment efforts, but these efforts must not be regarded as “an HR issue.”  Senior leaders from across an organization must visibly support such efforts and allocate the resources necessary to maintain an effective prevention strategy.
  2.  “Comprehensive and Effective Harassment Policy”: Most employers understand the need to have a harassment policy, but many do not regularly review and revise their policies to ensure they are both legally and practically effective.  In addition to maintaining strong and effective policies, employers also must regularly inform employees of them.   When assisting clients with a harassment claim It is not uncommon to find that the alleged harasser and/or the alleged victim was last provided a copy of the harassment policy many years earlier at the time of hire, and/or was not provided subsequent revisions to the applicable policies.
  3. Effective and Accessible Harassment Complaint System”: Many employers with strong, current, and seemingly effective harassment policies often fall short when it comes to developing and implementing a reporting and investigation mechanism.  It is essential that a complaint system be tailored to the employer’s specific workplace, as this is an area where “canned” or outdated materials can render a process ineffective.  To whom the harasser should report, who is to investigate those reports, and how the investigation will be carried out will necessarily vary by organization and, like the harassment policy, these issues are best resolved in consultation with your employment counsel.
  4. “Effective Harassment Training”: Employers should consider annual or bi-annual in-person training.  As the EEOC notes, “[l]eadership, accountability, and strong harassment policies and complaint systems are essential components of a successful harassment prevention strategy, but only if employees are aware of them.”  Regular training specific to an employer’s unique workplace is vital not only to the prevention of harassment, but also to the effective defense of harassment claims.  Your employment counsel often can assist in the efficient preparation and delivery of in-person training for your organization.

We recommend that all employers, regardless of size of operations, take the time to evaluate their current policy and practices to prevent workplace harassment with these core principles in mind.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Dickinson Wright | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Dickinson Wright

Dickinson Wright on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.