Search form

EEOC Issues Domestic Violence Guidance, Reminds Employers to Consider Title VII and ADA

By Paul Patten
  • November 5, 2012

In a series of Questions and Answers entitled, “Application of Title VII and the ADA to Applicants or Employees Who Experience Domestic or Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, or Stalking,” the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has reiterated its commitment to ensuring justice for vulnerable individuals.  While the EEOC’s October 12, 2012, guidance does not change fair employment practice law, it reminds employers to review their workplace anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies and training for compliance with recent developments in equal employment opportunity law.

As the EEOC explains, “Because… federal EEO laws do not prohibit discrimination against applicants or employees who experience domestic or dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking as such, potential employment discrimination and retaliation against these individuals may be overlooked.”  Nonetheless, the EEOC says, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act may apply to employment situations involving applicants and employees in these situations.

In its Qs & As, the EEOC reminds employers that Title VII prohibits disparate treatment based on sex, including sex-based stereotypes, as well as sexual or sex-based harassment and to consider these protections when dealing with employees who experience domestic, dating or other sexual violence.  The EEOC includes the example of a hiring manager who fails to select a male applicant who obtained a restraining order against a male domestic partner, because the manager believes that “men should be able to protect themselves.”  With respect to sexual harassment, there is the example of a supervisor who makes sexual advances toward an employee who recently was subjected to domestic abuse and is now living in a shelter. Employers should consider including these examples in their materials for preventive in-house training.  

The EEOC’s Qs & As also remind employers that the ADA prohibits different treatment or harassment at work based on an actual or perceived impairment, which could result from domestic or dating violence, sexual assault or stalking.  In addition, the EEOC says that the ADA may require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for a disability or record of disability including, among other things, anxiety or depression stemming from a traumatic incident.  Finally, the Qs & As remind employers that the ADA prohibits disclosure of confidential medical information.

Some states, including Florida, Washington, Illinois and California, already require employers to provide leave or extend other benefits to victims of domestic violence.  Companies also may consider doing more as part of an effective employee-relations program to protect their vulnerable workers. 

The EEOC’s Qs & As should be viewed together with the agency’s recent Draft Strategic Enforcement Plan for Fiscal Years 2012 through 2016.  The draft Plan, released on September 4, 2012, lists systemic recruiting and hiring discrimination as the Commission’s first priority, followed by protecting immigrant and migrant workers from discrimination.  The EEOC also has committed to investigating “emerging” issues, including common ADA defenses invoked by employers, utilizing Title VII to protect members of the LGBT community, and pushing employers to accommodate pregnant women. 

While the EEOC increasingly is focused on class litigation, the agency recently has shown an interest also in litigating individual pregnancy discrimination claims on behalf of women working in lower paying jobs. 

Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to assist employers in reviewing their EEO policies and training programs and advising on EEOC developments.

©2012 Jackson Lewis P.C. This Update is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice nor does it create an attorney/client relationship between Jackson Lewis and any readers or recipients. Readers should consult counsel of their own choosing to discuss how these matters relate to their individual circumstances. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited without the express written consent of Jackson Lewis.

This Update may be considered attorney advertising in some states. Furthermore, prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Jackson Lewis P.C. represents management exclusively in workplace law and related litigation. Our attorneys are available to assist employers in their compliance efforts and to represent employers in matters before state and federal courts and administrative agencies. For more information, please contact the attorney(s) listed or the Jackson Lewis attorney with whom you regularly work.

See AllRelated Articles You May Like

June 9, 2017

Make Room on Your Bulletin Board for the Nevada Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act Notice

June 9, 2017

Nevada employers must post a notice on the Nevada Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act immediately. Governor Brian Sandoval signed the Act into law on June 2, 2017, and the notice provisions took effect upon signing. All other provisions of the Act will take effect on October 1, 2017. Under the Act, most employers with at least 15 employees... Read More

May 24, 2017

Mine Safety Agency Issues Close Call Accident Alert after Structural Failure

May 24, 2017

The Mine Safety and Health Administration issued a “close call accident alert” after a structural failure at a sand and gravel mine. MSHA said that a scrubber tower located at the mine structurally failed moments after a miner traveled through the area. The agency said that four main support columns failed, causing the scrubber tower... Read More

May 23, 2017

New Puerto Rico Labor Department Religious Accommodation Regulations Effective May 25

May 23, 2017

The Employment Law Reform enacted earlier this year in Puerto Rico introduced a local requirement to accommodate an employee’s observance of religious practices or beliefs. (See our article, Top 20 Things You Should Know About the Proposed Puerto Rico Employment Law Reform.) The law directed the Secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of... Read More

Related Practices