June 20, 2016

The next phase in the fight to end workplace harassment must focus on prevention, and companies should revamp training programs and be more aware of harassment risk factors, witnesses told the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at a public meeting.

Many companies view anti-harassment efforts as a cost or as a way to avoid legal liability, task force member Joseph M. Sellers said. It's important that they understand the task force's conclusion that harassment prevention will help improve their profitability, said Sellers, Chair of the Civil Rights and Employment practice at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC.

Extensive data and literature on workplace harassment exists, but more and more harassment complaints deal with abusive behavior directed at protected traits other than gender.  Sellers told the commission that “harassment evolves,” and new forms of harassment emerge as society changes. For example, workplace harassment of Muslims and the LGBT community has become more common. “We can't be static in how we think about harassment,” Sellers said.

This article originally appeared in Bloomberg BNA.