The EEOC recently issued guidance on how an employer’s stereotypical responses to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking could run afoul of the discrimination laws. The guidance gives some examples which, to the savvy employer, may appear obvious examples of inappropriate (and unlawful) stereotyping. However, the guidance is worth the read. Why? A few reasons:
- So often, the characteristics that cause us the most challenge are those that we are blind to in ourselves but can so easily see in others. We employment lawyers and HR professionals are no exception. Thus, being reminded of (and challenged to rid) inappropriate stereotypes in our workplaces is never a wasted exercise.
- Some of the examples provided in the EEOC guidance can assist the next round of training. An employer would be wise to add some of the examples used in the guidance. This ‘ever-seeking-to-improve’ approach to training serves the important dual purpose of not merely providing more thorough training for legal defense, but most importantly, more thorough training for creating the kind of workplace that is responsive to the ever-changing needs of all employees – in essence, helping to create the kind of workplace where we all would want to work.
- Some may claim that this guidance serves as another example of the EEOC’s reaching for greater enforcement and “stretching” Title VII and other discrimination laws. An unbiased read, however, more likely will disclose that the examples do reflect inappropriate stereotypes that employers would be wise to rid from their workplaces.