White House Reviewing EEOC Harassment Protections for LGBT Workers

White House Reviewing EEOC Harassment Protections for LGBT Workers

The White House is reviewing guidelines proposed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the waning days of the Obama administration to extend the commission’s interpretation of sex-based harassment to include actions based on gender identity and sexual orientation, Lydia Wheeler reports at the Hill. The unusual move has raised fears among civil rights advocates that it represents another effort by the Trump administration to roll back regulatory protections the previous administration sought to provide to LGBT employees:

The language is at odds with the way Cabinet officials in the Trump administration have viewed and carried out the laws governing discrimination, which can include harassment, when it comes to LGBT people. And that’s why civil rights advocates and a former commissioner fear it won’t be approved. …

What’s unusual, former EEOC Commissioner Jenny Yang said, is that the guidance is under review by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) and has been since November. Yang, who left the EEOC on Jan. 3, said the proposal is sub-regulatory guidance, which is not typically reviewed by the White House because it’s only an expression of the agency’s policy.

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UK Lawmakers Launch Inquiry Into Sexual Harassment at Work

UK Lawmakers Launch Inquiry Into Sexual Harassment at Work

The Women and Equalities Committee of the UK Parliament has initiated an inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace and what employers and the government can do to better prevent and address it. The inquiry will look at:

  • action that the Government and employers can take to change workplace culture, increase confidence to report problems, and make tackling harassment a higher priority
  • how staff can be better protected from sexual harassment by clients, customers and others
  • how effective – and accessible – tribunals and other legal means of redress are, and what improvements could be made to those systems
  • the pros and cons of using non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in sexual harassment cases, and what can be done to prevent inappropriate use of NDAs.

In its announcement of the inquiry, the committee points to a recent survey conducted by ComRes on behalf of the BBC, which found that 40 percent of women in the UK have experienced some form of sexual harassment at work, with women in the 18-34 age demographic reporting slightly a higher rate of prevalence. Another study in 2016 came up with even higher numbers, finding that 52 percent of women (and 63 percent of those aged 16-24) had experienced unwanted behavior including groping, sexual advances and inappropriate jokes in the workplace.

The committee gathered oral evidence on the subject at a hearing in January, from a group of employment experts including the Confederation of British Industry’s Managing Director Neil Carberry and Ksenia Zheltoukhova, Head of Research at the CIPD. At that session, these experts stressed the importance of enabling victims of harassment to feel safe in reporting it, which means changing not only policy but also culture, as Carberry put it:

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American Bar Association Urges Law Firms to Adopt Stronger Anti-Harassment Measures

American Bar Association Urges Law Firms to Adopt Stronger Anti-Harassment Measures

The explosion of public awareness and discussion of sexual harassment in recent months has motivated many organizations to take a good, hard look at their HR policies and make sure they are really protecting potential victims in their workplace, either out of moral obligation or mere recognition that sexual harassment allegations are becoming more common and carry greater reputational risks than ever before. Professional associations have a role to play in spearheading this reckoning: Last month, SHRM’s CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. put out a call to HR leaders and professionals to address the shortcomings in HR policy and organizational culture that enable harassment.

The American Bar Association is now pressing for greater accountability for sexual harassment in the field of law, adopting a formal resolution urging employers in the legal sector and beyond “to adopt and enforce policies and procedures that prohibit, prevent, and promptly redress harassment and retaliation based on sex.” Workforce columnist Jon Hyman highlights some of the resolution’s key provisions:

  • Inclusion of “gender,” “gender identity,” and “sexual orientation” in the definition of “sex.”
  • Encouragement all employers to disseminate a clear statement that all harassment, including harassment based on sex, will not be tolerated.

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US House Votes to Prohibit Sexual Relationships Between Legislators and Staffers

US House Votes to Prohibit Sexual Relationships Between Legislators and Staffers

In response to a wave of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations in recent months that has led eight members of the US Congress to either resign or decline to run for re-election, the House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to bar its members from engaging in sexual relationships with their employees and from using taxpayer funds to settle harassment suits, the Washington Post reports:

H.R. 4924 alters the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 to require members to reimburse the Treasury Department when they are involved in settlements; automatically refers cases that have settled to the House Ethics Committee; extends workplace protections to unpaid staffers, including interns; gives staffers the ability to file a lawsuit at the same time as they file a complaint; and improves record-keeping.

A separate resolution, House Resolution 724, requires each member of the House to adopt policies prohibiting harassment and discrimination; establishes the nonpartisan Office of Employee Advocacy to provide assistance to staffers with complaints; mandates that each member’s office certify it is not using its budget for workplace settlements; and prohibits sexual relationships between members and “any employee of the House that works under [their] supervision.”

The resolution passed on Tuesday should put a stop to the widely criticized practice of paying settlements to victims of sexual harassment in the House with taxpayer funds, the Associated Press explains:

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Workplace Relationships Decline Amid Heightened Attention to Sexual Harassment

Workplace Relationships Decline Amid Heightened Attention to Sexual Harassment

In its annual survey on office romance, conducted in the lead-up to Valentine’s Day, CareerBuilder finds this year that the number of US employees saying they have dated a co-worker at a ten-year low of 36 percent, down from 41 percent last year and 40 percent in 2008:

Thirty-seven percent of men say they have dated a coworker compared to 35 percent of women, while one in five male workers (20 percent) say they have dated someone at work two or more times in their career, compared to just 15 percent of their female colleagues. …

Of those who have dated at work, more than a quarter of women (27 percent) say they have dated someone who was their boss compared to just 16 percent of men. Additionally, 30 percent of these workers say they have dated someone who was at a higher level in the organization than they were. Thirty-five percent of female coworkers reported dating someone at a higher level in the company than them, compared to 25 percent of their male coworkers.

The shift from a ten-year high in last year’s survey to a ten-year low this year may be related to the unprecedented attention finally being given to sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace after countless women opened up about their experiences as part of the #MeToo movement over the past six months. Wider awareness of these problems and an increased focus on preventing harassment and punishing perpetrators have reportedly led to anxieties among men in the workplace about the propriety of their interactions with female colleagues, which would tend to result in fewer workplace romances being initiated.

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How the Workplace Will Change in 2018

How the Workplace Will Change in 2018

Over the past few years, we have witnessed a marked acceleration in the pace of change in the workplace. Each year brings with it new innovations, ideas, and passing fads, as well as social, political, and economic events that affect employers all across the world. 2017 was no exception: Tight labor markets driving competition for talent, concerns over automation and displacement amid the growing embrace of new technologies, the first year of the Trump administration, and the rise of the #MeToo movement were just a few of the many events and trends that impacted the working world last year. In 2018, we anticipate that some of these developments will continue to reverberate, while new challenges and opportunities will arrive.

Here are some of the major developments that employers can expect to see this year, in the US and around the world:

The Sexual Harassment Reckoning Will Only Grow

In the second half of 2017, revelations of sexual harassment, misconduct, and assault poured out of Silicon Valley and Hollywood, sparking a long-overdue conversation about the treatment of women and the harboring of known abusers in these male-dominated industries, as well as in politics, media, and other fields. Powerful men, from Hollywood moguls to tech CEOs to members of the US Congress, were toppled by multiple allegations of sexual misconduct ranging from inappropriate workplace behavior to outright assault. Organizations in all sectors are facing unprecedented public attention to their sexual harassment policies, how diligently they enforce them, and whether they uphold an inclusive and respectful work environment. If the reckoning didn’t come to your industry in the past few months, it likely will this year. Business leaders in corporate America and around the world will have their past and present behavior scrutinized, and some will be exposed as abusers and face strong public and investor pressure to step down. Addressing toxic workplace cultures that enable sexual harassment will become an issue of even greater concern for directors and HR leaders. Companies can ill afford to close their eyes and hope for this problem to go away on its own; time really is up.

The Private Sector Will Lead the Way on Raising the Minimum Wage

Congress is unlikely to take action to increase the federal minimum wage in 2018. Some states will raise their minimum wages, as will some cities, while other states will take action to preempt local hikes. Meanwhile, companies will take it upon themselves to increase their pay floors in order to attract and retain talent in a tight labor market. As large employers of low-wage hourly workers like Walmart and Target increase their own minimum wages, other companies will need to follow suit to remain competitive.

Technology, Social Media, and Journalists Will Continue to Bring Transparency into Company Culture

Companies’ cultures and employer brands are in the spotlight now more than ever before. The decisions, approaches, policies, and beliefs through which companies manage their employees will play a dramatically larger role in how consumers and investors (not just candidates and employees) view the company. In 2018, this will put pressure on companies to manage their employer brands through HR as aggressively as they protect their consumer brands through PR.

CEOs Will Be Forced to Take Stands on Political And Social Issues

Throughout 2018, the political polarization and dysfunction that has prevailed in Washington, D.C. recently will almost certainly persist, while gender equality, diversity, immigration, LGBT rights, and other issues with major workplace implications will remain hot-button topics. While some CEOs have already found their voices when it comes to responding to the news of the day, others will feel pressure this year from customers, employees, and investors alike to be more vocal about their beliefs and to back them up with concrete actions within their companies.

AI Will Play a Bigger Role In Hiring, Raising the Risk of Algorithmic Bias

The use of AI and algorithms in hiring decisions has already grown dramatically. In 2018, companies will continue to adopt these technologies, but many will also begin to recognize the danger of algorithmic bias. While these automated solutions have shown promise in terms of improving quality, efficiency, and even fairness in the recruiting process, they also run the risk of harming diversity in the workforce by replicating biases that already exist within the company.

Adoption of Wearables in the Workplace Will Increase

In 2017, 3 percent of companies introduced wearable technology in the workplace, giving employees smart badges to monitor their behavior in order to track productivity and identify inefficiencies in the use of office space. In 2018, as more companies adopt technology that can track the location and behavioral data of employees, companies will begin to use this data to redesign workspaces, schedules, and workflows to maximize employee productivity. As these technologies become more mainstream, employers may not have to worry as much as they think about employees resisting their implementation, but should think carefully about how much actionable insight they are gaining by monitoring their employees.

More Employees Will Change Jobs Due to a Lack of Respect

While compensation continues to be the top driver of attraction for candidates globally, respect was the the fourth most important driver in our Global Talent Monitor Report for Q3 2017. In 2018, the labor market will continue to remain tight and employees will feel that they have enough control to speak openly about the lack of respect or appreciation. If companies aren’t able to provide increased compensation or opportunities for growth, they should look at ways to improve employees’ sense of respect in order to retain talent.

Hollywood Women to Sexual Harassers: ‘Time’s Up’

Hollywood Women to Sexual Harassers: ‘Time’s Up’

On January 1, a group of over 300 women in the US entertainment business, including prominent actors like America Ferrera, Eva Longoria, Natalie Portman, and Reese Witherspoon, announced the launch of a massive, nationwide initiative to address sexual harassment, misconduct, and assault in their own workplace as well as other industries. Their effort, entitled Time’s Up, is a leaderless, volunteer-powered campaign to put pressure on employers to take action against harassment, connect victims to legal resources, and protect them from retaliation for speaking out about their experiences of harassment and abuse. As the New York Times’s Cara Buckley reported when the initiative was launched, Time’s Up is starting out with four key components:

  • A legal defense fund, backed by $13 million in donations, to help less privileged women — like janitors, nurses and workers at farms, factories, restaurants and hotels — protect themselves from sexual misconduct and the fallout from reporting it.
  • Legislation to penalize companies that tolerate persistent harassment, and to discourage the use of nondisclosure agreements to silence victims.
  • A drive to reach gender parity at studios and talent agencies that has already begun making headway.
  • And a request that women walking the red carpet at the Golden Globes speak out and raise awareness by wearing black.

Central to the endeavor is a focus not only on the rarefied world of these Hollywood stars, but also—especially—on women who lack their power, privilege, and wealth, such as domestic and agricultural workers, who suffer extensively from sexual harassment and violence in the workplace but often lack the resources to fight back. The Time’s Up legal defense fund, which has by now attracted over $16 million and counting in crowdfunded donations, will be housed at and administrated by the National Women’s Law Center and led by Tina Tchen, former chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama, and Roberta Kaplan, who successfully argued before the Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.

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