As employers prepare their “Return To Work” plans, clear communications to employees about protocols and expectations will be critically important. Recent updates to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) COVID-19 publication, “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and other EEOC Laws,” discuss “reminders” that employers should consider providing to employees on various EEO-related “Return To Work” topics.
Near the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., as reports of harassing conduct towards Asian individuals increased, the EEOC was quick to remind employers that they could reduce the chance of harassment by explicitly communicating to the workforce that fear of the pandemic “should not be misdirected against individuals because of a protected characteristic, including their national origin, race, or other prohibited bases.” (E.1.)
The EEOC reiterated that guidance in its recent updates, noting that workforce reminders should:
- Note Title VII’s prohibitions on harassment;
- Remind employees that harassment will not be tolerated;
- Encourage anyone who experiences or witnesses workplace harassment to report it to management; and
- Remind employee that harassment can result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.
(E.3.) The EEOC further emphasized that managers in particular should be reminded of their roles in watching for, stopping, and reporting any harassment or other discrimination, and that managers should specifically “be alert to demeaning, derogatory, or hostile remarks directed to employees who are or are perceived to be of Chinese or other Asian national origin, including about