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EEOC Issues New Guidelines on Preventing Harassment at Construction Workplaces

Following the EEOC’s April 2024 release of its “Enforcement Guidance on Harassment in the Workplace,” the agency further detailed specific measures for preventing harassment in the construction industry on June 18, 2024.

According to the EEOC’s report, titled “Promising Practices for Preventing Harassment in the Construction Industry,” over one-third of the charges received between fiscal year (FY) 2019 and FY 2023 involved allegations of harassment based on federally protected characteristics such as race, color, sex, religion, or disability.

DC Federal Employment Lawyers note that key principles outlined by the EEOC for preventing harassment in construction include:

  • Implementation of strong and comprehensive anti-harassment policies.
  • Commitment from leadership to foster a harassment-free culture.
  • Consistent accountability mechanisms.
  • Accessible and trusted complaint procedures.
  • Regular, interactive anti-harassment training tailored to diverse audiences within the organization.

The EEOC recommended that project owners incorporate harassment prevention plans into contract bids and that general contractors enforce similar provisions with subcontractors and staffing agencies. It also suggested specific actions for general contractors, such as providing anonymous hotlines for complaints, ensuring subcontractors have their complaint channels, conducting regular anonymous worker surveys, and posting anti-harassment policies in multiple languages used by workers on-site.

The agency’s guidance also identifies nine key elements of a comprehensive anti-harassment policy tailored to the construction industry. This guidance aligns with the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan for Fiscal Years 2024–2028, focusing on industries where women and certain racial groups are underrepresented and systemic harassment is prevalent.

The EEOC highlighted several risk factors contributing to harassment in construction, including predominantly male workforces, decentralized workplaces, and pressures to conform to traditional gender roles. It emphasized that these factors may be exacerbated by multiple employers on-site and the project-based nature of construction work.

Despite women comprising only 11% of the construction workforce and 4% of trade workers, the EEOC stressed the broader implications of harassment beyond safety concerns, affecting recruitment and retention of women and people of color in the industry.

DC Federal Employment Lawyers Advise: Employers in the construction sector are encouraged to review both general and industry-specific EEOC guidance, ensure compliance with local, state, and federal anti-harassment laws, and assess workplace policies and agreements to mitigate joint and co-employment risks. Awareness of varying state or local laws and agency guidance is also recommended to ensure comprehensive compliance efforts.

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