Task Force reconvenes to discuss strategies to promote workplaces free of harassing conduct
The Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace reconvened during an open public meeting on June 11, 2018 to hear from expert witnesses on “Transforming #MeToo into Harassment-Free Workplaces.” Legal scholars and attorneys representing workers and employers identified a range of issues surrounding allegations of sexual harassment since October 2017 and the subsequent rise in the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. Topics included non-disclosure and arbitration agreements and training mandates and shared proposals for legal reform. Included in the discussion, along with sexual harassment, were other forms and aspects of harassment, including discrimination and retaliation. Suzanne Hultin of the National Conference of State Legislatures testified that over “125 pieces of legislation have been introduced this year in 32 states,” many of which go beyond federal regulations. A separate panel presented strategies that employers, unions, and others have developed to promote workplaces free of harassing conduct. Some of the identified programs included:
• The Power Shift Project which is a solutions-based effort for what media outlets are doing to deal with emerging cases of sexual misconduct, and what systemic changes are necessary to end harassment and promote opportunity for all.
• The Chicago hospitality industry addressed the “Hands Off Pants On” campaign that was spearheaded by UNITE Here Local 1 and the Chicago Federation of Labor two years before the #MeToo movement exploded. The initiative, passed by the Chicago City Council in October 2017, protects hotel workers from sexual harassment and assaults by guests.
• A restaurant called Homeroom developed a simple color-coded system for wait staff to sue to signal if they confront harassing conduct from a customer which triggers immediate action by a manager to jump in to handle the situation.
• Callisto, a non-profit organization, developed online technology for reporting harassing incidents that creates a “matching escrow” which allows victims to hold their identities in escrow until another victim of the same harasser comes forward. A second report prompts both victims being put in touch with the same legal advocate.
• The CEO and co-founder of tEQuitable, has created an independent, confidential platform that addresses issues of bias, discrimination and harassment in the workplace. The platform is a tech-enabled Ombuds program which “is the only platform implementing solutions to proactively stop harassment, not just reactively catch harassers after the fact.” Since the initial Select Task Force in 2015 and 2016, EEOC developed a training program called Respectful Workplaces and has provided over 200 training sessions to over 5,200 employees and supervisors in 18 states. EEOC has also conducted 2,700 outreach events reaching approximately 300,000 individuals.