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Federal workplace harassment guidelines updated for first time in decades to include LGBTQ+

The White House said the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission added workplace harassment details on sexual orientation and gender identity.
American flags and a pride flag hang from the White House during a Pride Month.
Posted at 5:28 PM, May 01, 2024

The Biden administration's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has updated federal LGBTQ+ workplace guidelines on harassment to include sexual orientation and gender identity, making it the first update of its kind since 1999.

Human Rights Campaign said they praised the new EEOC guidance, and say the updates now align with the Supreme Court's landmark 2020 Bostock v. ClaytonCounty decision, which came after an employer allegedly fired a longtime employee "simply for being homosexual or transgender," the ruling stated. The 11th Circuit Court had said Title VII, used in that case, didn't prohibit an employer from firing an employee for being gay. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that Title VII protects LGBTQ+ employees.

The White House said that the EEOC’s latest guidance "makes clear that sex-based harassment, which is already prohibited under federal law, includes mistreatment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity."

The Biden administration believes the updates will better allow LGBTQ+ people to use legal protections in cases of physical assault, forced outing or intentional misgendering. The updates in guidance are also expected to affect access to bathrooms and other facilities that are segregated by sex.

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said, "mistreatment can vary greatly, and it's especially prevalent in the form of intentional misgendering or deadnaming for transgender and nonbinary people. Combined with the difficulties that many LGBTQ+ people have in finding employment, members of our community can feel trapped in cycles of harassment with no options to get away from it."

This was the first update to the guidelines in 25 years, and signaled how the EEOC expects to enforce anti-bias laws, even though the language is not legally binding, The Hill reported.

EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows, in a statement posted on the agency's website,signaled that the agency is focusing on harassment both in the office and for hybrid and remote workers, writing: "Harassment, both in-person and online, remains a serious issue in America’s workplaces. The EEOC's updated guidance on harassment is a comprehensive resource that brings together best practices for preventing and remedying harassment and clarifies recent developments in the law."