May 11, 2023
Unlawful Harassment: It’s Not Just a Women’s Issue
On May 11, 2023, the EEOC announced its lawsuit against a restaurant employer and its outsourced human resources company for reportedly violating federal law, subjecting male employees to sexual harassment.
The lawsuit alleges a co-owner of the restaurant engaged in egregious conduct, displaying private body parts and making “repeated sexual comments” to male employees related to their sexual orientation. The EEOC alleges the employer and “its outsourced HR company…failed to conduct an adequate investigation, thereby failing to address and rectify the harassment.”
Watch the trends.
1. Of all sexual harassment charges filed with the U.S. EEOC in the agency’s ‘FY 2021, 16.3% were filed by men.
2. While that is a decline over the two years prior, the percentage of No Reasonable Cause determinations is the lowest since 2010 at 47.4%.
- This is lower than that of nearly every other type of charge filed including based on disability, age, race, retaliation, and more.
- Thus, the odds are better than 50-50 that if an individual files a charge of sexual harassment against your company, the EEOC will find reasonable cause to determine that you violated federal law.
3. The number of LGBTQ+ – based charges has increased every year since they were first tracked in 2018.
4. Joint employer liability – this issue arises across the spectrum of employment litigation and liability, from wage and hour violations to unlawful discrimination and harassment. If you are a service provider or an employee using the services of a vendor or contractor, ensure your contracts address and your business practices reduce liability and address whether the parties intend to be joint employers.
Proactive Practices. Consider some of the EEOC’s “Promising Practices for Preventing Harassment,” including checklists for employers. The Commission has identified five core principles that have generally proven effective in preventing and addressing harassment:
• Committed and engaged leadership;
• Consistent and demonstrated accountability;
• Strong and comprehensive harassment policies;
• Trusted and accessible complaint procedures; and
• Regular, interactive training tailored to the audience and the organization.
While an employer may be liable for unlawful harassment of any employee by any other person, including clients, customers and vendors, consider this. As an EEOC representative stated in its recent press release, “When the harasser is an owner, there is such a power imbalance that a higher liability is assigned to the employer.”