This EEOC statement to South Florida employers to implement robust harassment training came on the heels of the EEOC’s Miami office settling a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit.
The sex harassment lawsuit was filed by the EEOC against Coral Gables Trust Company (CGTC), a South Florida-based privately held trust company that provides wealth investment management and trust services throughout Florida. The lawsuit alleged that a male supervisor harassed a female executive assistant and marketing officer and retaliated after she complained.
Specifically, according to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the female employee was subjected to a hostile work environment based on her gender and then retaliated against after she complained.
In April 2018 a spokesman for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)’s Miami District Office announced that the EEOC will not only keep enforcing federal anti-harassment laws, it will also continue to encourage Florida employers to implement and maintain robust training in order to prevent harassment from occurring in the first place.
EEOC to South Florida employers: Maintain “robust” harassment training
The hostile work environment included verbal and physical harassment based on her sex at CGTC’s Coral Gables office and at various locations throughout South Florida that the employee visited on business trips.
After the EEOC was unable to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the EEOC’s conciliation process, it filed the lawsuit, which was immediately settled. The terms of the settlement include the South Florida employer agreeing to pay the employee $180,000 and also providing significant equitable relief to settle the sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit.
The employer agreed to provide the employee with a positive job reference. In addition, the settlement requires the employer to pay for an independent equal employment opportunity consultant to investigate all complaints of sex-based harassment, discrimination or retaliation. The company must also distribute a revised policy against sex discrimination; post a notice informing employees about the lawsuit; provide anti-discrimination training to all managers and employees; and provide individual training to the company’s chief wealth advisor. Further, the company agreed to designate two board members to receive future complaints of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation.
The district director for the EEOC’s Miami District Office announced to Florida employers:
“The EEOC has long recognized the role that power imbalances in the workplace, such as those between managers and their direct subordinates, can play a role in permitting and perpetuating sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is plainly illegal under federal law, and the EEOC will continue to combat it.”
If your organization has not updated its harassment training since 2017 to include references to #Metoo and bystander intervention training, now is the time to do so. The EEOC has taken the position that the old style of harassment training has not been effective at preventing harassment. It is likely that if your Florida organization receives an EEOC charge of discrimination for harassment, the EEOC will scrutinize the frequency and type of training that you are providing.
If you would like assistance in such harassment training, please email the Law Office of David Miklas, P.A. or call us at 1-772-465-5111.
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This is consistent with a recommendation contained in EEOC chairpersons Feldblum and Lipnic’s 2016 Report from the Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace. That EEOC Report informed employers that a company’s leadership must put money and time into preventing harassment.
“Employees must believe that their leaders are authentic in demanding a workplace free of harassment. Nothing speaks to that credibility more than what gets paid for in a budget and what gets scheduled on a calendar. For example, complaint procedures must be adequately funded in the organization's budget and sufficient time must be allocated from employee schedules to ensure appropriate investigations. Similarly, sufficient resources must be allotted to procure training, trainings must be provided frequently, and sufficient time must be allocated from employee schedules so that all employees can attend these trainings. Moreover, if an organization has a budget for diversity and inclusion efforts, harassment prevention should be part of that budget.”