EEOC’s Preliminary Sexual Harassment Data Shows Huge Increase

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released preliminary data earlier this month for fiscal year (FY) 2018. Its data shows:

  • The EEOC filed 66 harassment lawsuits, including 41 that included allegations of sexual harassment, reflecting more than a 50 percent increase in suits challenging sexual harassment over FY 2017.
  • Charges filed with the EEOC alleging sexual harassment increased by more than 12 percent from FY 2017.
  • The EEOC recovered nearly $70 million for the victims of sexual harassment through litigation and administrative enforcement in FY 2018, up from $47.5 million in FY 2017.

Perhaps this data is a reflection of the “#MeToo” movement with alleged victims more willing to come forward. But it also shows the EEOC’s focus on preventing and remedying workplace harassment, as the agency continues to actively enforce federal anti-discrimination laws while also educating employees, employers, and the public on unlawful harassment.

DOL Delays Revised Overtime Rule Until Spring

The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) Wage and Hour Division is working on revising the regulations that implement the exemption of bona fide executive, administrative, and professional employees from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage and overtime requirements. Most of you will recall the tortured history of the previously updated salary threshold that was promulgated under the Obama Administration and would have raised the salary level for the exemption to an annualized salary of $47,476. That final rule was never implemented, due to a nationwide court injunction so the salary level remains at $23,660 per year ($455 per week). Now, the DOL’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that will propose an updated salary level for the exemption and seek the public’s view on the salary level and related issues has been delayed until March of 2019. Reports suggest that the proposed salary level will be in the low $30,000 range annually, or close to $600 per week. We’ll have to wait and see what is proposed in the Spring – we’ll keep you posted.

OSHA Clarifies Post-Incident Drug Testing Position

On October 11, 2018, the DOL released an interpretation memorandum from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that is meant to clarify OSHA’s position on post-incident drug testing and safety incentive programs in the workplace. Applicable regulations, 29 C.F.R. § 1904.35(b)(1)(iv) states, “you must not discharge or in any manner discriminate against any employee for reporting a work-related injury or illness.” Previously, OSHA had indicated that post-incident drug-testing requirements could be considered retaliatory for employees who report or are involved in workplace safety incidents, or could otherwise chill an employee’s willingness to report a safety issue or workplace injury.

In its new interpretation, OSHA clarifies that it “…believes that many employers who implement safety incentive programs and/or conduct post-incident drug testing do so to promote workplace safety and health. In addition, evidence that the employer consistently enforces legitimate work rules (whether or not an injury or illness is reported) would demonstrate that the employer is serious about creating a culture of safety, not just the appearance of reducing rates. Action taken under a safety incentive program or post-incident drug testing policy would only violate 29 C.F.R. § 1904.35(b)(1)(iv) if the employer took the action to penalize an employee for reporting a work-related injury or illness rather than for the legitimate purpose of promoting workplace safety and health.”