November 9, 2017
By Jacquie Lee
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated its sexual harassment guidelines for the first time in over 20 years, agency leaders told an audience of lawyers Nov. 9.
The update comes up at a time of burgeoning publicity for sexual harassment and assault in the workplace, but that is is “purely coincidental,” Victoria Lipnic (R), the EEOC’s acting chair told Bloomberg Law. The agency has been working to improve its guidelines since 2015, Lipnic said. “But it makes it very timely and helpful,” EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum (D) said.
The new guidance incorporates public opinion the commission received over the last few years, but neither Lipnic nor Feldblum would comment on the specifics.
The commission unanimously approved the new guidelines Nov. 7 and the next day sent them to the Office of Management and Budget for approval. After the guidance moves through the OMB it will become public. Those guidelines will help steer employers’ sexual harassment prevention policies.
The EEOC also released official numbers regarding its backlog of charges.
Lipnic announced in October that the agency had reduced its backlog significantly in 2017. Official numbers now show the agency shrank its charge backlog by 16 percent in 2017. Critics of the agency typically point to its backlog as a sign of government bloat.
Janet Dhillon, the nominee to head the EEOC, cited shrinking the backlog as one of her goals in her committee hearing in October.
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