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By Ben Penn
The Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal provides a good opportunity for corporations to clean up their shops, Victoria Lipnic (R), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s acting chair, told an audience of in-house counsel Oct. 18.
In the aftermath of multiple reports of women accusing the Hollywood executive of sexual assault, Lipnic said she’s been constantly discussing the matter in her role as the chief official in charge of investigating workplace harassment claims.
“People keep saying, ‘Gosh you have these big celebrity flashpoints where this topic comes up every couple months.’ I would guess there are many people in this audience right now who are currently investigating harassment situations in their companies,” Lipnic said at the Association of Corporate Counsel annual meeting in Washington. “I tell people all the time—it is every day, everywhere.”
“This is an opportunity in terms of what you do in house for compliance and really do the things that need to be done to address this topic,” Lipnic added.
Lipnic will be relieved of her acting chair duties when the White House nominee for that position is approved by the Senate. At that point, she’ll resume her prior role as a commission member.
She also touted the progress the EEOC has made under her watch in reducing the backlog of cases. The backlogged cases are now down to the lowest level in 10 years, and significantly reduced from even a year ago, Lipnic said. She reserved specifying the number because it is still being finalized.
Her remarks on a labor and employment panel followed a keynote address from Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, who preached the necessity for regulatory stability to foster job growth.
The secretary outlined the handful of regulations issued under the Obama administration, such as the overtime, fiduciary, and persuader rules, that are now under review for revision or rescission.
But he asked the business lawyers for patience in the DOL’s rollback process.
“By necessity, rulemaking must be carried out in a deliberate manner as guided by law. With each administration, an hour glass is turned and there is an urgency to put all the sand back right away,” Acosta said. “But there is a greater obligation to that rule of law—to actually be deliberative and thoughtful and engage in rulemaking as required by law.”
The secretary touched on the agency’s ongoing review of public comments on the potential rewriting of the the 2016 rule that would have doubled the salary threshold below which workers qualify for overtime pay. The department has until Oct. 31 to decide whether to appeal a federal judge’s decision to permanently block the rule from taking effect.
The public comments are considered likely to frame a new, more moderate overtime regulation, but Acosta stopped short of guaranteeing such a rule is in the works.
An update to the salary threshold of $23,660 “is certainly worthy of consideration,” he said.
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