An Ounce of Prevention… EEOC Releases New “Know Your Rights” Poster
In its first update since 2009, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has released a new “Know Your Rights” poster to replace its older “Equal Employment Opportunity is the Law” poster. As a refresher, covered employers must display the EEOC poster, which explains employee rights to be free from discrimination under federal laws, in a “conspicuous location in the workplace where notices to applicants and employees are customarily posted.” Failure to do so may result in fines for covered employers, which, combined with other federally required posters, adds up to a potential fine of $38,314 in 2022. Employers will notice that this new poster dramatically alters the old by streamlining the formatting of the document into several bullet point sections in lieu of the old poster’s wall-of-words approach. Other revisions to the poster include the addition of discrimination based upon pregnancy and related conditions, sexual orientation, or gender identity to the definition of sex-based discrimination, further explanation of acts that can be considered discrimination, and the inclusion of a QR code that directs employees straight to the agency’s “How to File a Charge of Employment Discrimination” page.
While the document itself does not contain anything that should surprise employers, it does provide a great reminder to review your current Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) related policies for compliance with updated federal and state laws. Such a review is especially timely now, as the data collected by the EEOC demonstrates that viral trends and ease of access to filing have a significant effect on the number of charges filed with the agency. As a direct example, employers can look to the data from the years following the advent of the #MeToo movement in 2017, when the EEOC’s FY 2018 data showed a 13.6% uptick in the number of sexual harassment charges filed from FY 2017. While a poster update is not as momentous as the #MeToo movement, it does provide significantly improved ease of access to the agency’s charge filing portal through the inclusion of a directly linked QR code. Given the direct streamlining of the filing process, there is a potential for a rise in the number of discrimination charges filed with the agency in the coming years.
Employers should also take note of the most recent data regarding the economic impacts of harassment in the workplace and the savings effect of implementing effective preventative policies. For example, a Deloitte report focusing on post #MeToo movement workplaces determined that the economic cost of lost productivity from workplace sexual harassment can cost an average of $2.6 billion annually and that companies with the highest incidents of sexual harassment have underperformed in the US stock market by 19.9% over the subsequent year. In addition to costs related to lost productivity, litigation costs and jury verdicts in sexual harassment trials have skyrocketed in the last few years, including one verdict out of Los Angeles County in June of this year for an astonishing 460 million dollars, and that was for only two plaintiffs. The streamlining of the EEOC process and the agency’s efforts to heighten ease of access for employees now is as good a time as ever to review your internal policies and procedures and ensure that your business is prepared to respond to allegations of harassment.
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- Sexual Harassment in Our Nation’s Workplaces. Office of Enterprise Data and Analytics (OEDA) Data Highlight No. 2. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Washington, DC, April 2022. https://www.eeoc.gov/sexual-harassment-our-nations-workplaces#_ftnref3
- The Economic Costs of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. March 2019 at 9. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/au/Documents/Economics/deloitte-au-economic-costs-sexual-harassment-workplace-240320.pdf