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EEOC prepares guidelines for workplace harassment

Texas employers may become subject to proposed guidelines from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding the legal standards for worker harassment claims if the guidelines take effect. The agency seeks to update existing recommendations from the 1990s. Specifically, the EEOC guidelines offer interpretations of anti-discrimination laws derived from the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The proposed guidelines include detailed definitions for protected categories of workers. They address workplace sexual harassment based on sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, childbearing and other conditions. The EEOC explained that a worker's claim would need to show how harassment derived from one the protected categories of personal characteristics.

The updated guidelines expand the scope of what defines a hostile work environment. The EEOC also addresses the assignment of employer liability based on the source of harassment or discrimination. Various degrees of liability stem from whether the illegal conduct emerged from a supervisor, rank-and-file employee, representatives of the employer or non-employees.

Workplace harassment can take place at the hiring and interview stage as well as once a person starts to work. It can be insidious as well as overt, but the result is often the same. While courts are not bound to follow the opinions of the EEOC, the agency's views do carry a considerable amount of weight. People who view that they have been victimized by this type of behavior may want to meet with an attorney to see what steps they might be able to take in order to obtain appropriate recourse.

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