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EEOC Holds Roundtable Discussion on Harassment Prevention
March 22, 2019
Parsons Behle & Latimer Legal Briefings


On March 20, 2019 the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) convened what it called an “Industry Leaders Roundtable Discussion on Harassment Prevention.” As described by the EEOC, this meeting was a follow up to its most recent harassment prevention efforts in response to the #MeToo movement. To date, the EEOC has reconvened its 2015 Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace, held multiple Commission meetings and is working on the next generation of issues raised within the Task Force’s 2016 Co-Chairs’ Report. 

As sexual harassment issues and solutions evolve, the roundtable was held to help inform and assist the EEOC’s prevention and education efforts. The roundtable included representatives from a diverse group of industries and associations who came together to discuss challenges their members and the public face in addressing issues raised by the #MeToo movement as well as strategies and solutions implemented to improve workplace culture.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) contributed a particularly interesting written statement which included observations and recommendations.  SHRM reported:

  • A key statistic from SHRM’s most recent research indicates that while 72 percent of U.S. employees are happy with their employers' efforts [to create healthy workplace cultures], more than one-third of employees still believe their workplaces foster sexual harassment.

  • SHRM’s research also investigated what HR professionals believe are the most effective actions for influencing workplace culture and behaviors to foster safe environments for all employees:
    • The most effective action measured was enhancing the ability for HR to investigate allegations without the potential for retaliation, with 45 percent of respondents rating it very or extremely effective.
    • Other highly effective actions were independent reviews of workplace misconduct investigations by HR and
    • Increasing diversity of all types in leadership roles.

  • SHRM also noted that the organization now has a much clearer roadmap of the future direction of the workplace and the changes HR must make to improve culture and communication. These include:
    • Adding workplace civility training components to encompass behaviors that may not meet the definition of illegal conduct
    • Tailoring training to the organization's workforce rather than relying on generic, out-of-the-box programming
    • Ensuring that culture starts at the top but doesn't stop there, involving all employees in living the organization's culture
    • Adding training to onboarding activities for ALL staff, including the executive team.

  • In addition, HR professionals are now looking to tackle issues in these key areas:
    • Handling misconduct outside the physical workplace-happy hours, work travel, online
    • Handling anonymous complaints
    • Identifying effective practices for communication and post investigation follow-up so all employees know complaints have been addressed.

In addition to SHRM, here are a few other industry and association representatives who participated in the EEOC’s Roundtable, many of whom also submitted written statements:

  • Rosanna Maietta, Executive Vice President of Communications & Public Relations of the American Hotel & Lodging Association and President, American Hotel and Lodging Educational Foundation
  • Stephen Dwyer, General Counsel, American Staffing Association
  • Suzanne Beall, Vice President, Government Relations & Public Policy, International Franchise Association
  • James Rizzo, Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer & Corporate Secretary, National Association of Home Builders
  • William Dombi, President, National Association for Home Care & Hospice
  • Linda Kelly, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Board Secretary, National Association of Manufacturers
  • Stephanie Martz, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, National Retail Federation

A full list of the written statements submitted to the EEOC from roundtable attendees are available here.

To discuss this or other employment-related issues, contact Amy Lombardo at 208.562.4895 or send an email to alombardo@parsonsbehle.com.

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