Workplace harassment has been an issue in the federal government. Even though the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published standards in 2003 to make sure agencies take steps to prevent and stop workplace harassment, it has still been the number one issue cited in employment discrimination complaints filed against agencies since 2011. It has also been alleged in more than half of EEOC complaints since fiscal 2018.
The EEOC in 2017 issued a technical assistance document named Promising Practices for Preventing Harassment for all workplaces. The agency recently issued a new document aimed at helping federal agencies prevent and stop workplace harassment.
Some of the best practices and recommendations include:
- Distributing to all employees an annual anti-harassment policy stating that harassment will not be tolerated, the type conduct that is prohibited, how to report harassment, and the consequences of engaging in harassment and retaliation.
- Providing description of prohibited conduct that includes examples of harassment specific to the agency’s workforce.
- Assuring employees that bullying, intimidation, and stalking will not be tolerated.
- Specifying who is responsible for taking corrective action when an individual has been found to have violated the agency’s anti-harassment policy.
- Setting up platforms to allow for anonymous reporting of harassment such as through a website or Hotline.
- Specifying that the use of agency devices such as laptops to engage in online harassment will not be tolerated.
- Implementing agency-wide penalties including disciplinary action for individuals found to have engaged in harassment.
- Rewarding supervisors for taking actions that prevent harassment.
- Specify at which point employees are not eligible for promotions or performance awards if they have violated the anti-harassment policy. If the person engaged in harassment is a manager, consider whether he or she should be allowed to serve in that capacity.
- Providing anti-harassment training to both managers and employees with real-world scenarios.
The EEOC said the new guide “is intended to serve as a resource to help federal agencies prevent and remedy harassment and to assist agencies as they work to update or revise their anti-harassment policies and programs. Many of the practices identified may also be helpful to practitioners outside of the federal government.”