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New EEOC Workplace Harassment Guidance: 5 Suggestions for Employers

By May 30, 2024June 5th, 2024No Comments

Employers should review their harassment-prevention policies, procedures, and training now that the federal government has released new guidance on workplace harassment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has updated its enforcement guidance on workplace harassment for the first time in 30 years, adapting it to modern workplace standards. The aim is to clarify protections for LGBTQ+ employees and address the recent increase in sexual and racial harassment cases. While this guidance is not law, it is a reference for employers and will likely be used by EEOC staff, employment attorneys, and courts. Here are the five key takeaways for employers and the steps to consider.


Employers have been particularly concerned about workplace harassment claims in recent years. The EEOC proposed new harassment guidance in 2017 during the #MeToo movement. However, that guidance was not finalized due to political issues. The new guidance, released yesterday, is the first update since the 1990s.

Top 5 Takeaways for Employers

  • Workplace Anti-Bias Laws Cover Pregnancy-Related Decisions: The definition of sexual harassment now includes pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions. This inclusion means employees are protected against discrimination related to pregnancy, such as lactation, contraceptive choices, and decisions about abortion. These protections should be considered alongside recent expansions to pregnancy accommodation laws.
  • Clarification on Protection for Religious Expression: Employers must accommodate employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs under Title VII and protect against religiously motivated harassment. Employers should engage in an interactive process for religious accommodation requests but are not required to accommodate religious expression that creates a hostile work environment. Persistent religious discussions that an employee objects to could be considered hostile.
  • Harassment Can Occur Virtually: With the rise of remote work and online communication, the guidance clarifies that harassment can occur virtually. Discriminatory speech via email, instant messages, videoconferences, or other online platforms may still constitute harassment under Title VII.
  • Broad Protections for LGBTQ+ Workers: The new guidance specifies that harassment of LGBTQ+ workers, especially transgender employees, can be a Title VII violation. This aligns with the Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which determined that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination are forms of sex discrimination under Title VII. Examples of harassment include denying bathroom access based on gender identity, intentional misgendering, or harassment for not conforming to gender stereotypes.
  • Guidance for Updating Harassment Policies: The new guidance provides resources for employers to review and update their harassment policies to prevent and address workplace harassment effectively. It includes key points for improving anti-harassment policies, complaint and investigation processes, and training programs.

Anticipated Legal Challenges

After the EEOC proposed the updates in September 2023, a coalition of 20 states threatened legal action, claiming the EEOC overstepped its authority, particularly regarding gender-identity protections. The EEOC responded that the guidance does not impose new legal obligations but aligns with the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock. Despite the EEOC’s stance, legal challenges are expected.

Next Steps for Employers

With the new guidance effective immediately, employers should:

  • Review the Enforcement Guidance: Ensure your policies align with the updated standards.
  • Update Policies: Implement a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and encourage immediate reporting of concerns. Ensure all your policies are consistently enforced.
  • Train Managers: Regularly train supervisors to identify and prevent workplace harassment. Update training materials annually.
  • Investigate Complaints: Properly investigate all complaints and take appropriate corrective action when necessary.

These updates allow employers an opportunity to enhance their organizational culture and ensure a safe, professional working environment for all employees.

If you’d like to discuss these changes, please don’t hesitate to contact 501(c) HR Services.

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For more than 40 years, 501(c) Services has been a leader in offering solutions for unemployment costs, claims management, and HR support to nonprofit organizations. Two of our most popular programs are the 501(c) Agencies Trust and 501(c) HR Services. We understand the importance of compliance and accuracy and are committed to providing our clients with customized plans that fit their needs.

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The information contained in this article is not a substitute for legal advice or counsel and has been pulled from multiple sources.

(Images by Jcomp and

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