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PRESS RELEASE
10-29-99

EEOC UPDATES GUIDELINES TO COMPLY WITH SUPREME COURT RULINGS ON EMPLOYER LIABILITY FOR HARASSMENT BY SUPERVISORS

Final Rule Follows Issuance of EEOC Policy Guidance on Harassment

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today issued an interpretive final rule rescinding subsection (c) of its guidelines on sex discrimination and national origin discrimination (29 C.F.R. Part 1604.11 and 1606.8) to conform with recent Supreme Court rulings on employer liability for harassment by supervisors. The other sections of the guidelines remain in full effect. A text of the final rule is scheduled for publication in today's Federal Register and is also available on the Commission's web site (www.eeoc.gov).

"EEOC's revised guidelines, along with the recently issued policy guidance on harassment, clarifies the legal standard under which employers are held responsible for harassment by supervisors," said EEOC Chairwoman Ida L. Castro. "These guidances will assist employers and employees in understanding their rights and responsibilities in accordance with the Supreme Court decisions and the laws enforced by the Commission."

Issuance of the final rule follows the June 18, 1999 release of EEOC's comprehensive policy guidance on Vicarious Employer Liability for Unlawful Harassment by Supervisors. The policy guidance, which analyzes Supreme Court rulings in Burlington Industries v. Ellerth and Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, states that the Commission will delete subsection (c) of its guidelines on workplace bias based on sex and national origin -- which is no longer valid due to the Court's rulings.

In Ellerth and Faragher, the Supreme Court ruled that employers are "vicariously liable" for harassment by supervisors. However, if the harassment did not result in a tangible job action, the employer can raise an affirmative defense that it exercised "reasonable care" to prevent and correct the harassment, and that the employee unreasonably failed to use its complaint procedure. EEOC's policy guidance explains the new standard of liability.

The rescission of subsection (c) was published as an interpretive final rule without a notice of proposed rulemaking and solicitation for public comment because it is not a significant regulatory action. The next publication of the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) will incorporate the revision to EEOC's guidelines on sex and national origin discrimination.

The final rule, policy guidance on harassment, and other information about the Commission are available on the agency's web site at www.eeoc.gov, or by writing to EEOC Headquarters, Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs, 1801 L Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20507.

The EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; the Equal Pay Act; Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments; prohibitions against discrimination affecting individuals with disabilities in the federal government; and sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.