On April 29, 2024 – for the first time in more than twenty years – the EEOC issued its long-awaited updated Enforcement Guidance on Harassment in the Workplace. The updated guidance, which supersedes the EEOC’s decades-old guidance from the 1980’s and 1990’s, now addresses subjects arising in the modern workplace, including the rise of remote work, the #MeToo movement, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s  decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, 590 U.S. 644 (2020), in which the Court held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects workers from discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. A few key updates that employers should be aware of include the following:  

Conduct in virtual environments

With the increase in virtual and remote work, the Guidance explains that conduct within a virtual work environment can constitute a hostile work environment. Stated differently, the existence of harassment and a hostile work environment is not limited exclusively to a physical workplace. To illustrate its point, the Guidance identified several example scenarios where harassment could exist in a virtual or remote workplace, such as sexist or ableist comments made during a video meeting or typed into a group chat, “racist imagery that is visible in an employee’s workspace while the employee participates in a video meeting,” or “sexual comments made during a video meeting about a bed being near an employee in the video image.”Continue Reading EEOC issues long-awaited enforcement guidance on workplace harassment

On March 3, President Joe Biden signed into law one of the most significant modifications ever made to federal arbitration law. Known as the “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021” (the Act), the new law essentially restricts employers from forcing workplace sexual harassment or assault claims to be resolved

On February 7, 2022, the United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 4445, which would modify the Federal Arbitration Act by carving out an exception for cases involving sexual harassment and assault. The bill titled, “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021” – which was passed by the Senate on

The Texas Legislature has been quite busy over the most recent regular and two specially-called legislative sessions. It adjourned its second specially-called legislative session on September 2, 2021. Additional bills may be enacted into law if and when Governor Greg Abbott calls a third special session. So far, Governor Abbott has signed into law several bills that may have flown under the radars of many Texas employers. Here’s a brief recap of several new laws that may impact Texas businesses and their workforce.

Expansive new sexual harassment protections

As we noted in prior posts (July 6, 2021 and September 2, 2021), Texas passed several new laws that increase legal protections against sexual harassment. The laws, which went into effect on September 1, 2021, expand liability for sexual harassment to companies with just one employee and to individual supervisors and coworkers. The legislation also lengthens the deadline from 180 days to 300 days for a claimant to file a charge alleging sexual harassment with the Texas Workforce Commission.

Liability shield for Texas businesses from most COVID-19 claims

As we noted in prior posts (July 15, 2021 and August 19, 2021), Texas – along with 18 other states – passed statutory liability protections for businesses against claims arising from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Pandemic Liability Protection Act (PLPA), which went into effect on June 14, 2021, grants retroactive liability protection for both small and large businesses for claims commenced on or after March 13, 2020. The PLPA does not provide Texas businesses an absolute immunity shield, and claims can still be brought for a pandemic-related injury or death if the business:

  • Knowingly failed to warn of, or to fix, a condition it knew was likely to result in exposure, and the failure to warn or fix was the cause in fact of the exposure; or
  • Knowingly failed or refused to comply with government standards, guidance or protocols that are intended to lower the likelihood of exposure to COVID-19, and the failure or refusal to comply was the cause in fact of the exposure.

As written, the PLPA’s liability shield will continue to protect businesses until Governor Abbott terminates the current COVID-19 pandemic disaster declaration.
Continue Reading Overview of several new workplace laws Texas employers should know about following the recent legislative sessions

On July 6, 2021, we released a blog post on Texas’ new sexual harassment laws, which became effective September 1, 2021. These laws expand liability for sexual harassment to companies with at least one employee and to individual supervisors and coworkers. Our July 6 post discusses the details of the new laws; now that

The effects of the #MeToo movement for employers continue with Governor Abbott recently signing two new bills into law (effective September 1, 2021) that greatly amplify legal protections against sexual harassment. One bill extends the statute of limitations for sexual harassment claims from 180 days to 300 days. The other opens the door for small employers, and even individual supervisors and coworkers, to be held liable for sexual harassment.  Also, Texas employers must now take “immediate and appropriate corrective action” to avoid liability for sexual harassment. We explain these new laws in more detail below, and discuss steps Texas employers may want to consider before the new laws go into effect.

Statute of limitations lengthened for sexual harassment claims (House Bill 21)

Currently, employees must file a charge of discrimination with the Texas Workforce Commission within 180 days of the alleged harassing conduct. House Bill 21, which Governor Abbott signed into law on June 9, 2021, lengthens the statute of limitations for filing sexual harassment claims from 180 days to 300 days from the date of the alleged harassment. The longer limitations period applies only to sexual harassment claims based on conduct that occurs on or after September 1, 2021. The current 180 day statute of limitations remains unchanged for other types of alleged discrimination (e.g., based on race, age, etc.).

Because the statute of limitations under federal law for sexual harassment claims is 300 days, plaintiffs who miss the 180-day deadline under Texas law were typically only able to pursue their sexual harassment claims in federal court (assuming, of course, they initiated legal proceedings within the 300-day federal deadline). Beginning this fall, those plaintiffs will be able to pursue such claims in either federal or state court. 
Continue Reading Attention Texas employers: Starting September 1, 2021, companies with just one employee—as well as individual supervisors and coworkers—can be liable for sexual harassment

On July 14, 2020, the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) released guidance for employers regarding the state’s new “adverse judgment or administrative ruling” reporting requirement.  Following amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act, employers with at least one adverse judgment or administrative ruling must disclose to the IDHR the total number of final, non-appealable judgments or final, non-appealable rulings against the employer in which there was a finding of sexual harassment or unlawful discrimination.

The guidance released this month resolves ambiguity by clarifying employers’ deadlines for reporting to the IDHR.  The deadline to report for calendar year 2019 is now October 31, 2020, and the reporting deadline will be July 1 for subsequent years.

The reporting requirement is not limited to employers with a physical presence in Illinois.  As the guidance reiterates, the reporting requirement applies to “any person employing one or more employees in Illinois.”
Continue Reading Illinois releases guidance regarding reporting rule for sexual harassment and discrimination judgments

On April 28, 2020, the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) released its model Sexual Harassment Prevention Training, providing guidance for employers with employees operating in Illinois.

Under the Workplace Transparency Act (WTA), effective January 1, 2020, employees must receive training on sexual harassment prevention by December 31, 2020, and on an annual basis thereafter. At minimum, the training must:

  • Explain what sexual harassment is (consistent with the Illinois Human Rights Act definition).
  • Provide examples of prohibited conduct.
  • Summarize federal and state sexual harassment laws, including remedies available to victims.
  • Set out the employer’s responsibility to prevent, investigate, and correct sexual harassment.

Continue Reading Illinois releases model sexual harassment training

One in two women have been sexually harassed at work according to a survey conducted earlier this year by the Trades Union Congress. It is timely, therefore, that last month saw the launch of a specialist legal advice line for women in England and Wales experiencing sexual harassment at work. The advice line, run by the charity Rights of Women, provides women with advice on identifying sexual harassment, how to bring complaints against employers, the employment tribunal procedure, settlement agreements and nondisclosure agreements. The advice line is the first of its kind in the UK and supporters hope that it will empower women to exercise their legal rights in the workplace. The increased awareness generally of employees’ rights in relation to workplace harassment means that responsible employers should be proactive (rather than reactive) in ensuring that their policies and procedures on this topic are in order.

The launch of the advice line follows the publication earlier this year of a report by the Women and Equalities Committee of the UK parliament on the use of nondisclosure agreements in discrimination cases. The report set out the UK government’s view that confidentiality clauses and nondisclosure agreements should not be used to ‘gag’ and intimidate victims of workplace harassment and/or discrimination. The government intends to legislate on this topic in due course. Other initiatives and proposals include the introduction of a statutory code of practice on sexual harassment and harassment at work. It is clear that sexual harassment is a subject matter which continues to remain a key focus of the government, press and public.Continue Reading Guarding against sexual harassment in the workplace: a robust policy is only the starting point

New York lawmakers had a busy summer overhauling many of the state’s existing workplace laws. Many of the newly enacted changes, as well as others enacted within the past year, become effective in October 2019. Below we will highlight the new laws taking effect in October and discuss measures employers should take to ensure their workplaces are compliant.

Already in effect:

  • All New York State employers must provide new hires with a notice containing the company’s sexual harassment policy. In addition, at the required annual sexual harassment prevention training sessions, employers must again furnish to all employees a notice containing the sexual harassment policy and, also, the information presented at the training.

While the law does not indicate precisely what information presented during the training must be provided, we recommend that employers provide new hires with the handouts and a copy of   the presentation (presumably, PowerPoint slides) used at the training program.Continue Reading Fall to bring more than just foliage for New York employers