JENNY R. YANG, Chair
CONSTANCE S. BARKER, Commissioner
CHAI R. FELDBLUM, Commissioner
VICTORIA A. LIPNIC, Commissioner
CHARLOTTE A. BURROWS, Commissioner
GWENDOLYN REAMS, Associate General Counsel
PEGGY R. MASTROIANNI, Legal Counsel
BERNADETTE B. WILSON, Acting Executive Officer
CHAIR YANG: Good morning. Please take a seat, Mr. Gill. Welcome. Good morning everyone. The meeting will now come to order. Thank you all for joining us. In accordance with the Sunshine Act, today's meeting is open to public observation of the Commission's deliberations and voting.
MS. WILSON: Good morning, and before I begin, is there anyone in need of sign language interpreter services?
MS. WILSON: Okay. Thank you. Good morning again Madam Chair, Commissioners, Associate General Counsel, Legal Counsel. I'm Bernadette Wilson from the Executive Secretariat.
We'd like to remind our audience that questions and comments from the audience are not permitted during the meeting and we ask that you carry on any conversations outside the meeting room, departing and reentering as quietly as possible. Also, please take this opportunity to turn your cell phones off or to vibrate mode.
I would also like to remind the audience that in case of emergency, there are exit doors to the right and left as you exit this room. Additionally, the restrooms are down the hall to the right and left of the elevators.
During the period May 14th, 2016, through June 16th, 2016, the Commission acted on five (5) items by notation vote:
Approved litigation in one (1) case;
Approved for public input, an enforcement guidance on national origin discrimination; and,
Approved resolutions honoring Louise Dixon; John D. Schmelzer; and Webster N. Smith on their Retirement. Madam Chair?
CHAIR YANG: Thank you Ms. Wilson, and thank you to all of you who have joined us today for today's meeting on Rebooting Workplace Harassment Prevention: Key Findings From The Report of Commissioners Chai Feldblum and Victoria Lipnic, Co-Chairs of the EEOC's Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today. That includes my colleagues, Commissioner Feldblum and Commissioner Lipnic, as they present their report of the co-chairs of the Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace.
Thirty years ago in 1986, the Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Meritor Savings Bank vs. Vinson. The court ruled that workplace harassment is actionable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Three decades later, harassment in the workplace, whether on the basis of race, sex, national origin, religion, age or disability, remains far too common a problem with an enormous impact on people's lives, taking away a person's dignity and often inflicting lasting harm on these individuals and their families.
Our charge data presents a troubling snapshot. Since 2010, we have received over 160,000 charges alleging harassment in the private sector, and close to 40,000 complaints filed by federal employees alleging harassment. In fiscal year 2015 alone, over a third of our private sector charges alleged harassment and two-fifths of the charges filed in the federal sector.
I would like to commend Commissioner Feldblum and Commissioner Lipnic for pulling together an extraordinary group to serve on our Task Force. I was particularly struck by the breadth of experience this group brought to their discussions.
The Task Force featured attorneys from various perspectives, including those who represent employees and employee associations, including Joe Sellers from the law firm of Cohen, Milstein, Sellers and Toll, who you will hear from today; Fatima Goss Graves from the National Women's Law Center; Chris Ho from the Legal Aid Society - Employment Law Center; and Tom Saenz from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Attorneys who represent employers and business associations also served on the Task Force, including Rae Vann from the Equal Employment Advisory Council, who you will also hear from today; Manuel Cuevas-Trisan from Motorola Solutions; Stephen Dwyer from the American Staffing Association; Jonathan Segal from Duane Morris; Patricia Wise from Niehaus Wise & Kalas, who also represented the Society for Human Resource Management.
The Task Force included one attorney who previously represented management and now represents plaintiffs, Brenda Feis from the law firm of Feis Goldy. The Task Force included a representative from Labor, Angelia Wade Stubbs, from the AFL-CIO. Finally, the Task Force included academics from the fields of economics, sociology, psychology, management and law; Ariane Hegewisch from the Institute of Women's Policy Research; Meg Bond from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell; Frank Dobbin from Harvard University; Jerry Carbo from Shippensburg University; and Sahar Aziz from Texas A&M University.
I would like to ask members of the Task Force in the audience today to please stand and be recognized.
CHAIR YANG: On behalf of the Commission, I want to thank each member of the Task Force for your service. We know that it was a lot to ask. You gave your time to us, as well as your expertise, and it has truly paid off in the recommendations that we will hear today.
I would also like to thank EEOC staff for their work with the Task Force and the assistance in planning this meeting. Most particularly, Sharon Masling of Commissioner Feldblum's staff, and Jim Paretti and Donald McIntosh of Commissioner Lipnic's staff. And now, I would like to invite my fellow Commissioners to make any opening statements, beginning with Commissioner Barker.
COMMISSIONER BARKER: I keep forgetting to turn that on. Good morning and my thanks to everybody who chose to spend their Monday morning with us this way, but particularly to my fellow Commissioners for doing just an outstanding job. I thought the report that you put out was just really tremendous work, really well written, really broad and inclusive. And I was telling Commissioner Feldblum that I particularly loved the checklist as a way of giving employers something concrete to measure their performance on.
So, I won't take any more time other than to express my appreciation to both my fellow Commissioners and to each of the members of the Task Force and particularly the panelists this morning. Thank you.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you, Commissioner Barker. Commissioner Feldblum.
COMMISSIONER FELDBLUM: Thank you. I will reserve my main opening statement for when I'm testifying, but I just want to say "welcome" to Mr. Gill and "welcome" to the four witnesses who will make up the panel. Thank you.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you. Commissioner Lipnic.
COMMISSIONER LIPNIC: Thank you Madam Chair. And I also want to welcome our witnesses. Mr. Gill, thank you for being with us, and the other members who -- witnesses who testified before our Task Force earlier this year. And I also will reserve my main remarks for when Commissioner Feldblum and I are testifying. Thank you.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you. Commissioner Burrows.
COMMISSIONER BURROWS: Good morning. I'd like to thank Chair Yang for establishing the Select Task Force to look at this very important issue and to help us to identify some strategies that will really make a difference. I'd also like to commend and thank my colleagues, Commissioners Feldblum and Lipnic, for all the work that they have done. And I really, really appreciate it because I think this is exactly the way we should be approaching these problems to sort of dig deep and to figure out if we can be very thoughtful about it. So, thank you for that.
And of course thank you very much to all the members of the Task Force who are willing to be part of that process of digging deep and spending time with us in trying to wrestle with this so that we can get in front of the problem, as opposed to trying to always catch up with it after there've been folks harmed.
It's critically important for the Commission to focus on this issue of discriminatory harassment because it's such a significant problem in today's workplace. I'm sure we'll hear about this.
And on, I think, my third or -- second or third day of work, we had a Commission hearing at which this Task Force was announced back in January of 2015 and talked about the real impact it has. So, thank you very much, Mr. Gill, for being here today, and to all the witnesses who are willing to share your insights with us because it is something that I've been continuously struck by how powerfully this sort of discrimination affects individuals and their families. So, we really ought to be looking to figure out what we are going to be doing about it going forward.
This month, as the Chair mentioned, marks the landmark decision in Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, recognizing for the very first time that sexual harassment is, in fact, actionable under Title VII. So, we've come a long way in those 30 years, but we continue to see cases of egregious sexual harassment and of course other forms of harassment.
A recent example is our litigation in the Moreno Farms case where a jury returned a unanimous verdict awarding $17.5 million, I believe was the amount, to five former female employees at Moreno Farms who suffered egregious harassment, including sexual assault, attempted rape, retaliation and on and on. And cases like this highlight the impact that we can have on addressing harassment and securing relief, but, they also show that we have so much to do to educate employers and to protect folks in the first instance. And so, we need to figure out, if we can, how we can do that.
I'm eager to hear about the key findings and hear more about the report and I look forward to the testimony today. Thank you very much.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you, Commissioner Burrows. Today's meeting will consist of three panels and there will -- then we will open the floor for questions from the Commission. Panelists, you will each have a limited amount of time to speak today, but your complete written statements will be available on our website www.eeoc.gov, and will also be placed in the meeting record.
Please note that we are using the timing lights at the center of the console in front of me. The yellow light will appear when you have one minute remaining for your statement. And the red light will appear when your allotted time expires.
Commissioners' questions and comments will begin after each of you have completed your opening statements. Please make sure to press the button to turn on your microphones when it is your turn to speak. And, again, we are grateful to all our witnesses for taking the time to be with us today.
For our first panel, we will hear from Tony Gill. Mr. Gill worked as a truck driver for the trucking company, A.C. Widenhouse, and he intervened in the EEOC's racial harassment lawsuit against the company.
Although we had hoped to hear from a witness about her experience with sexual harassment, unfortunately she was unable to join us. Instead, we will show a brief excerpt from the documentary, "Rape on the Night Shift," featuring one of the 21 women we obtained relief for in our lawsuit against the janitorial company, ABM Industries. We'll begin with Mr. Gill. Thank you. Turn your light on, on your microphone. Push the button.
MR. GILL: Okay.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you.
MR. GILL: First, I'd like to thank the Commission for inviting me here today. My name is Contonius Gill, and I filed a charge of discrimination against my former employer, A.C. Widenhouse, for harassment I suffered while working there. What happened to me is ugly and straightforward. A.C. Widenhouse is a freight trucking company headquartered in Concord, North Carolina. I worked for A.C. Widenhouse as a tanker truck driver, hauling extremely hot molten asphalt, which is approximately 360 degrees, from May 7, 2007, to June 9, 2008.
Right from the beginning I was subjected to racially derogatory comments. On my first day of employment, a mechanic, who was white, approached me and asked if I would like to hang from their family tree. When the question was asked, another coworker motioned for me to look to the ceiling rafters and a noose was hanging there. I was shocked and felt threatened. I spoke to my dispatcher about it, as well as the general manager. I never heard from anybody about it.
I wish I could say this was the first and last time I saw a noose, but it was not. I saw nooses on a few more occasions. One of which was in the back of my manager's Ford F-150.
The same mechanic made other racial comments that were offensive. He would use the word "Tyrone" frequently and also refer to me and two other African American coworkers as "coons." I should mention that the majority of my coworkers were older white males who also used the name "Tyrone" as a substitute for using the N word. The general manager also used the N word hundreds of times a week. I asked him to stop using the term, but he did not.
The general manager and coworker also engaged in using the name "Tyrone" to refer to an African American man as "coons" and "lawn jockeys." A lawn jockey is a lawn ornament of a dark-skinned man that some people used to have in their yards. The general manager also told me that if his daughter ever brought a black man home, that he would kill them both. On another occasion, he told me that I needed to be stump-broken. I found out that that is when a white man stands on the stump of a tree and will train a horse or other four-legged animal to back up to the stump while the man sodomized the animal as a depraved form of training it.
Excuse me. Several drivers also made racial comments that were offensive. They would use the words -- the N word and "monkey" a lot and use the words over the CB radio when they were talking to each other, and it could be heard by anyone on the CB as they blamed and complained about African Americans. I complained to the general manager many times and nothing was done. As far as I knew, A.C. Widenhouse did not have a harassment policy, and I never received any information on it from them on my rights or how to complain.
This treatment at work left me depressed. I felt isolated, demeaned and dehumanized. I began to have difficulty sleeping and I was filled with anxiety. I had never before encountered a work environment like the one at A.C. Widenhouse. I filed my complaint with the EEOC on August 19th, 2008. The EEOC took my case to court. The jury took less than one hour to deliberate and was unanimous in finding that I had been discriminated against based on my race.
I was vindicated in a court of law, but this was not an easy road to walk. I learned that when you speak up about racial discrimination at work, people distance themselves from you and some even vilify you, as Widenhouse did to me on television with the press and news media. So, you need to have a lot of inner strength because this path you will walk alone.
Thank you for letting me come to Washington, D.C. to tell my story with you. I hope my story helps others who have been racially harassed at work to find the inner strength to step forward and complain.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you, Mr. Gill, for sharing your story with us and for your courage in coming forward. We really appreciate it.
We will now share a brief excerpt from the documentary "Rape on the Night Shift," relating to the EEOC sexual harassment lawsuit against janitorial company ABM Industries.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you. At this time, the Commissioners will have the opportunity to direct questions to Mr. Gill. And each Commissioner will have up to five minutes for questions. And I would just like to start, Mr. Gill, by thanking you for coming forward to share your experience. No one should have to experience what you went through simply to work.
You mentioned that this really was a different type of an employment experience than you had ever seen. What do you think it was about this particular work environment and this employer that allowed that kind of harassment to occur?
MR. GILL: It's hard to say. I think that at some point there would be other employees that just would want to bring you down to their level, but I think a lot of what I experienced was sort of, it seemed like it was taught, it was almost like tradition with them. So, then the things that they would say seems like they -- they had said it so much that it was passed down, you know.
So, to me, it seemed like it was just for them, maybe a rite of passage. I don't know. It's hard to say.
CHAIR YANG: Now, when you complained to your employer, did you hear anything in response?
MR. GILL: He said, "I'll talk to them," but it was more like he was brushing off what I said. It was -- it was really brief and he turned and went back in the office. He didn't say anything else.
CHAIR YANG: And what would you have hoped the -- your employer would have done in response to your complaint?
MR. GILL: I think there were a lot of things he could have done. He could have given them warnings. He could have given them written warnings. They could have posted something where they could all see it. But when you have the manager as well as my coworkers, when I would come in to drop off paperwork and they're sitting around like pretty much the boys at a campfire, and seeing who can exceed and tell the most racial or sexual joke or something about gender orientation or anything, it was like they were trying to one up each other.
CHAIR YANG: Well, thank you for sharing that, Mr Gill. I will now turn it over to my colleague, Commissioner Barker.
COMMISSIONER BARKER: Hi, Mr. Gill. Thank you so much for coming in this morning.
MR. GILL: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER BARKER: I really appreciate your testimony and also your courage in coming forward and I'm just glad -- I think that your testifying is also a reminder to us that -- of what we're here for and I'm delighted that our attorneys were able to be there for you and to take your case forward and to get your verdict that I hope was of some satisfaction, though it didn't cure things.
MR. GILL: Yes.
COMMISSIONER BARKER: But I hope that that helped you to deal with this in the future, and I would just thank you again for your -- for coming forward. Thank you.
MR. GILL: Thank you for inviting me.
CHAIR YANG: Commissioner Feldblum.
COMMISSIONER FELDBLUM: So, again, I want to thank you. I think that you have indicated how hard it is to actually ever get over this.
MR. GILL: Yes, ma'am.
COMMISSIONER FELDBLUM: Right. And that really was the point of our work on this Task Force --
MR. GILL: Okay.
COMMISSIONER FELDBLUM: -- because we didn't want to wait until harassment rose to the level of illegal conduct.
MR. GILL: Uh-huh.
COMMISSIONER FELDBLUM: I mean, I want to commend Anna Park and everyone else from our LA office who did take your case, but it just never goes away.
MR. GILL: It doesn't.
COMMISSIONER FELDBLUM: And so, I am -- I've got a lot more to say, but I'll be saying it as I'm sitting at the same table that you're sitting at right now, which is unusual for us as Commissioners to walk down and for us to take questions from our fellow Commissioners. So, I also want to thank you for taking the questions and responding. So, I look forward to talking more when I'm in your seat.
MR. GILL: Okay.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you. Commissioner Lipnic.
COMMISSIONER LIPNIC: Thank you Madam Chair. Mr. Gill, thank you so much for being with us and, as everyone has said, your courage and coming forward and for being with us here today to relate your story.
I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about what you felt it took for you to actually finally go to the EEOC and complain and what the process was like for you when you would bring this to the attention of your managers and how you felt and what you experienced when you were being rebuffed in that way.
MR. GILL: That's a pretty complex question, but the simple answer is, I got tired of it. At one point, my general manager would, when I come in at the end of the day, it was like he was waiting for me. And on his Rolodex he had -- it was a card with a Dixie flag on it and it said, "Sons of the Confederate." And he would make it a point to turn his Rolodex so that that card, I would see it each time I came in.
So, and he may lean back in his chair and he would ask me, "I know you're not voting for that Obammy, are you?" And that's the way he would describe the president, "Obammy." And I think one day I came in and I was just mad and he said, "I know you're not voting for that Obammy" again. I mean, he would say it probably three or four times a week up until the election. And one day I came in and I said, well -- excuse my language, but I said "Hell, yes, I am. And I should take your car and do it."
It was just -- they're not going to say anything directly to you, like come up and speak to you. It's more -- it's going to be more of a -- maybe someone will pass by and say something. The next person may come behind you and say something, but it's always in a -- in a format that they can always have the deniability, if that makes sense.
COMMISSIONER LIPNIC: And can I ask you, did you feel like you had any coworkers who you could turn to who, you know, were aware of this situation and who would help and support you? MR. GILL: No.
COMMISSIONER LIPNIC: Not at all?
MR. GILL: Not -- when you're in the workplace, I guess the common -- I don't know if it's a reason or an excuse, it's just what it is, they don't want to become involved and they don't, I guess, want to lose their job. I mean, I guess people have different reasons for -- but a lot of people, I mean, you'll see people hurt on the street and people will walk by because they don't want to be involved, and I don't think they understand that whether you do anything or not, you automatically become involved if you're in that environment. You're going to have to make a choice at some point.
COMMISSIONER LIPNIC: And did you feel like -- what was your concern about if you complained about whether -- what you would then experience from your manager about losing your job?
MR. GILL: Are you asking was I fearful of losing it?
COMMISSIONER LIPNIC: Right.
MR. GILL: I was concerned about losing it. But at some point, it wouldn't override that I had to keep my dignity. I wasn't going to let them take that.
COMMISSIONER LIPNIC: Well, again, thank you so much for being with us and for coming here today.
MR. GILL: Thank you.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you. Commissioner Burrows.
COMMISSIONER BURROWS: Yes, and I wanted to add my thanks as well. I am from North Carolina and I've been to Concord.
MR. GILL: Okay.
COMMISSIONER BURROWS: And I -- it's interesting our state has been giving the EEOC a lot of business lately. It's become a full employment act for the Commission.
One of the things that I am particularly interested in and so happy that we are having this conversation today, is it seems that there is a culture, sometimes, of bigotry and the sort of shameful behavior that we somehow need to find a way to in the workplace, replace with a culture of respect.
MR. GILL: Uh-huh.
COMMISSIONER BURROWS: And obviously, where you were was a long way from that, but one of the things is -- that I can go back to is, this idea of policies that sort of set a tone. And you didn't get anything about anti-harassment, anti-discrimination from them, but did you get other kinds of policies?
Do they have something set up to say "Here's what matters," you know, safety or call 911 if -- or "Here's the number if your truck breaks down," anything like that at all, or was this really an employer that didn't do business that way even for other subjects?
MR. GILL: They were -- they seemed to be modeled on or proud about being like a small business, like a homegrown business. So, there wasn't a lot of talk about things like that. Of course, his primary concern would be with the trucks. So, there was a way to get in contact with mechanics and things of that nature.
But when you were -- I think there were three of us African Americans at the time, and I think they primarily hired us because business was so good. Because when you're hauling molten asphalt which is -- it's basically -- it's like cooking oil, and it's very hot and caustic, and they take it -- we take it to a plant and mix it with different grades or sizes of rocks, and then it's supplied to the street depending upon --
COMMISSIONER BURROWS: So, it's highway construction or street construction?
MR. GILL: Right. Right. So, two of my coworkers left before I did. I was actually probably the last one there just -- I just didn't -- I'm not the type to give up. So, as far as their policies go, it still was -- it's still one of those things where you don't want to say too much because the mechanics have been known to sabotage the vehicles.
COMMISSIONER BURROWS: Sure.
MR. GILL: They may cut your, you know, compressor where you don't have any AC. If you're hauling something that hot that's giving off sulfuric fumes, then it's very dangerous, but they had little concern about our safety.
COMMISSIONER BURROWS: Okay. And no sort of general policies, nothing in writing or regular meetings where they communicated things? I'm just trying to get a sense -- it seems like this employer sort of was cutting corners on all of that stuff, not just on the --
MR. GILL: He cut corners on a lot of things, but they -- the owner and the general manager were really close friends, but the general manager had come from another company called Ferebee, and they do the same thing we do. And once when I was offloading, a guy said, "Is Buddy Waller over there?" And he proceeded to say some real bad things about him for me to tell him, but I didn't know what he was talking about.
Well, he had actually embezzled like $30,000 from the company. So, they would do things like if we needed tires and things of that nature, it would be hard to get them and stuff like that.
COMMISSIONER BURROWS: And the general -- the general manger was the person you would have had to complain to, was the only obvious person, and you did complain to him.
MR. GILL: Right.
COMMISSIONER BURROWS: And am I correct in understanding that he also sometimes used the N word in the workplace?
MR. GILL: He was probably the primary person that did it.
COMMISSIONER BURROWS: Okay.
MR. GILL: And any -- if you went over his head, of course they would view that as insubordination. So...
COMMISSIONER BURROWS: I don't have any further questions. Thank you.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you Mr. Gill, for taking the time to share your story. I know it's a difficult story to retell and relive in the process, but we appreciate your highlighting the egregious harassment that still exists in workplaces today and the courage that it takes to change those practices. So, thank you so much. We really appreciate your taking the time.
MR. GILL: Thank you.
CHAIR YANG: For our second panel, we will hear from our colleagues, Commissioner Feldblum and Commissioner Lipnic, as they present their report of the co-chairs of the Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in The Workplace.
I want to thank them both for co-chairing this important Task Force. I recall them coming back from the meetings that they've held across the country with great enthusiasm. They have taken on this leadership of the Task Force with incredible passion and commitment and time, and I thank you and your staff for leading this very important effort.
I know we are all looking forward to hearing your findings and recommendations. And we will begin with Commissioner Feldblum. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FELDBLUM: Thank you so much. What we just heard from Mr. Gill and Ms. Morales on the video is the reason we are here today. No one, no one, should have to endure what they endured, and yet, so many people across our country are still experiencing events like this. They are experiencing them not only on the basis of race and sex, but also on the basis of religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity. That is why Commissioner Lipnic and I spent 18 months studying the issue of harassment in the workplace and writing the report we present to you today.
Chair Yang, thank you for coming up with the idea of creating a Task Force on harassment and for asking me and Commissioner Lipnic to chair it. To every member of the select Task Force, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the time and resources you gave to this effort. We want our report to have a game-changing impact on preventing workplace harassment. But for that to happen, we must start here in this room to get your support for the recommendations we have to reboot workplace harassment prevention. And we need not only your support, but the engagement and support of many other societal actors, including employers, employees, unions, community leaders, academics, advocacy groups and funders. We, therefore, present this report today to you and to them.
Our Select Task Force had two goals: One, collect information about workplace harassment that would be useful to know, and two, develop, if possible, new and creative ideas for preventing such harassment. We first needed to decide what "harassment" meant for purposes of our study. We chose to define "harassment" as unwelcome conduct based on a characteristic protected under our employment discrimination laws, even if such conduct did not rise to the level of legally actionable harassment.
Our focus was not to explicate legal issues about harassment. Our goal was to find creative approaches to stop harassment before it became illegal.
So, what is the prevalence of workplace harassment based on characteristics protected under our laws? Here is a disturbing fact: There is little prevalence data on workplace harassment on bases other than sex. There is some data on sexual orientation and gender identity, very little data on racial and ethnic harassment, and next to no data on harassment based on disability, religion or age. We hope one outcome of this report is that funders will support new research to give us that information.
There are a large number of studies on the prevalence of sex-based workplace harassment. As you will hear from Professor Cortina, the most conservative estimate is that one in four women experience sexual harassment. More accurate estimates of sex-based harassment range from 40 percent of women who have experienced unwanted sexual attention or sexual coercion, and 60 percent of women who have experienced sexually crude conduct or sexist comments. Houston, we have a problem.
What is also disturbing is that, while some targets confront their harassers and that helps sometimes, the most common responses are to avoid the harasser, downplay the gravity of the situation, or endure the behavior. The two least likely responses are to complain about the behavior to a supervisor, only 30 percent do that, and we see what happened when Mr. Gill tried to do that, or to file a formal charge. Indeed, upwards of 85 percent of people never file a formal complaint. That is not a good situation.
What about solutions? We have several sections of our report that focus on solutions. I will highlight three of them. First, actions to prevent harassment must start from the top. Leaders of an organization, private or non-profit, large or small, must communicate a sense of urgency about preventing workplace harassment. They must communicate this through words, policies and procedures that create a culture in which harassment is not tolerated, but that is not enough.
For workers to believe that their leaders are authentic, that they mean what they say, there must be accountability. This is what accountability looks like: If an individual has engaged in harassment, that individual is sanctioned in a manner proportionate to his or her conduct. For managers and front-line supervisors, it means that such individuals are measured by how well they deal with reports or observations of harassment, including receiving accolades when they deal with the situation well.
Second, we need different types of training. Employers must move beyond what we call in the report, "compliance training," training designed to teach employees what is unacceptable conduct and how to report it. As you will hear from Commissioner Lipnic, we believe that such training done well is an important component of a holistic workplace prevention effort, but compliance training on its own is unlikely to stop workplace harassment. Such training may increase workers' knowledge of harassment, but it is unlikely on its own to significantly change behavior.
For changing workers' behavior, we believe it is useful to explore two additional types of training; workplace civility training, and bystander intervention training. As you will hear again from Professor Cortina, some employers currently offer workplace civility training on ways to reduce bullying or conflict in the workplace. This training is not focused on unwelcome conduct based on a protected characteristic. Now, as we all know, civil rights laws do not impose a civility code, but employers may choose to adopt workplace civility training as a preventive measure to stop harassment before it occurs.
Bystander intervention training has been used by educational institutions for a number of years. We studied that training to see if it might be applicable to the workplace. We concluded that bystander training is not only applicable to the workplace, it could be a game-changer in the workplace.
So, what does bystander intervention training do? One, it teaches bystanders to recognize potentially problematic behavior. In the workplace, this overlaps nicely with compliance training.
Two, it creates a sense of collective responsibility. In the workplace, this means a culture in which workers believe no one should be a passive bystander in the face of harassment.
Three, it provides a sense of empowerment by giving bystanders the skills and confidence to intervene as appropriate. In the workplace, this means teaching concrete intervention skills. And finally, it provides resources that bystanders need to support their intervention. For example, in the workplace, it means ensuring that workers who intervene are rewarded and not retaliated against.
I will conclude with a third and, perhaps, most audacious goal, an It's On Us campaign launched in the workplace. An It's On Us campaign to prevent sexual assault in educational institutions began several years ago. This is a campaign now located at Civic Nation that encourages every person to become an engaged bystander to prevent sexual assault.
Our report recommends the exploration of a similar campaign in the workplace. To succeed, this campaign would need the active engagement of many societal actors, including, at a minimum, employers, employees, unions, advocacy groups and community leaders. What we propose is that EEOC serve as a catalyst for launching such an effort. Launching an It's On Us campaign in the workplace would not be a small effort, but why would we go small when the problem is so big?
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to present these aspects of our report. I look forward to listening as my colleague and co-chair, Commissioner Vicki Lipnic presents additional aspects of the report. On a personal note, I want to say how much I have enjoyed working with Commissioner Lipnic on this effort. It gives me hope for our political process when I see how the two of us can share perspectives, learn from each other and work towards a common goal. With that, I turn it over to Commissioner Lipnic.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you. Commissioner Lipnic.
COMMISSIONER LIPNIC: Thank you Madam Chair. My fellow Commissioners, I am pleased to appear before you today along with my friend and colleague, Commissioner Feldblum, to present our report as the co-chairs of the EEOC Select Task Force on the study of harassment in the workplace.
First, I also want to thank you, Chair Yang, for your leadership in creating the Task Force. It was an honor and a privilege to serve as a co-chair. I would also give my deepest thanks to the members of our staff, the Task Force members themselves, the witnesses from whom we heard testimony and all at the EEOC who made this a successful endeavor. I also associate myself with Commissioner Feldblum's remarks about how the power of stories like what we heard from Mr. Gill are what brought us to this work, and about how the diversity of experience and viewpoints on the Task Force was among its chief strengths and guided us in what we need to do going forward.
My interest in harassment dates back to when I first came to the Commission nearly six years ago. At that time, I mentioned to our late chair, Jackie Berrien, that I was surprised at how many cases of harassment, especially sexual harassment, the EEOC continues to see each year. When she asked me to look into it, I learned after a conversation with every EEOC district office and regional attorney, that if we wanted to, we could have a docket of nothing but harassment cases, in particular, sexual harassment.
When you add to that the harassment charges we see on all bases, as we heard from Mr. Gill this morning, that fact alone truly gives you pause. Thirty years after the Supreme Court laid down the law and set the standard for employers, how do we find ourselves with still so much work to do?
Commissioner Feldblum just detailed what we learned about the prevalence of and employee responses to harassment. I would like to discuss several of what I think are some of the other important takeaways from our report; the business case to be made for stopping harassment, our work with respect to identifying risk factors, and our recommendations regarding anti-harassment policies and training.
In terms of the business case, as an enforcement agency we began the work of the Task Force well aware of the legal costs. Investigations and litigation of harassment can come at a steep cost for employers. In 2015 alone, the EEOC secured $164.5 million for workers alleging harassment, and that does not include employers' legal fees and costs.
Also relatively well known, though less quantifiable, is the reputational harm of public reports of harassment. We all know about that, as do most employers. When they consider the costs of harassment, they tend to focus on legal liability and with good reason. However, it became increasingly clear we needed to tell a fuller story. Yes, employers should care about preventing harassment because it's the right thing to do and because it's required of them and because it will help avoid legal costs; but employers should also care about preventing it because it makes good business sense across the board.
First and foremost, harassment comes at a steep cost to those who suffer it. Mental, physical and economic harms are unfortunately common outcomes. Harassment can similarly affect others in the workplace, too, including coworkers who witness it or perceive it. The debilitating effects this can have on a workplace, the true costs of harassment, include decreased productivity often in the form of disengagement, increased turnover of the workforce and more discrete forms of reputational harm such as turning off customers or potential new hires. And, importantly, these effects are a net negative for employers even when the harasser is a top performer or a workplace superstar.
When looked at this way, harassment can be a serious drag on arguably the employer's greatest asset, its employees, which ultimately damages their bottom line. We hope our report gets businesses to take note of this important point.
Let me talk about the risk factors. As was mentioned, our efforts over the past year focused broadly on unwelcome conduct in the workplace. We wanted to find ways to help employers and employees prevent such conduct before it rose to the level of illegal harassment. Several members of the Select Task Force suggested that we identify elements in the workplace that might put it more at risk for harassment. The thought was that if we could identify risk factors, that might give employers a roadmap for taking measures to reduce harassment in their workplaces so that, rather than focus on individual behavior, we decided to focus on organizational factors or conditions that may increase the likelihood of harassment.
The report identifies a dozen workplace risk factors. Some of them seem fairly straightforward and common sense. For example, it seems logical that a workplace with a largely homogenous workforce might see harassment of a small number of different workers. Others were ideas we hadn't really thought about as a possible trigger. One witness told us how, at a museum, its security guards had fairly monotonous routines and were engaging in harassing behavior to combat boredom or pass the time. The solution was for the museum to vary the guards' duties and routines so that there wasn't that lengthy monotony. A simple solution, but one that had eluded the employer.
Now, most, if not every workplace, will contain at least some of the risk factors we discuss in the report. And to be clear, the existence of risk factors in a workplace does not mean that harassment is occurring, but the presence of one or more risk factors suggests that there may be fertile ground for harassment to occur, and that an employer may wish to pay extra attention in these situations or, at the very least, to be cognizant that certain risk factors may exist. In short, employers must have situational awareness.
In terms of policies and procedures, our report makes a number of recommendations regarding employer anti-harassment policies. Employers need to adopt robust policies that make clear harassment on any protected basis is prohibited, and they need to implement them in a similarly robust fashion. The policy and, in particular, details about how to complain of harassment an employee suffers, or to report harassment he or she sees, needs to be communicated frequently to employees in a variety of forms and methods.
Where possible, we recommend that employers offer reporting procedures that are multifaceted, offer a range of methods, multiple points of contact and geographic and organizational diversity where possible for an employee to report. Above all, employees must have faith in the reporting system.
We also specifically note the importance of employers considering, as they write and update their anti-harassment policies in our reboot that we call for, the proliferation of employee's social media use. As we heard in our Commission meeting on social media in 2014, social media can be a wonderful tool for bringing coworkers together and bonding over shared interests, but it can also too easily be used as a tool to harass or beleaguer a colleague. It must be treated like any other form of social discourse within and among the workforce. Simply put, harassment should be in employers' minds as they draft social media policies. And social media should be in their minds as they draft anti-harassment policies.
In terms of training, our report includes a number of very specific recommendations regarding anti-harassment training. Given the amount of resources employers devote to training, and the fact that training is one of the primary mechanisms used to prevent harassment, one of the earliest things we explored is whether training is effective in preventing harassment. And if so, whether there are some forms of training that have better outcomes than others.
On that point, we had some interesting insights. First, it became clear to us that too much of what we've been doing in the last 30 years hasn't worked. That fact is empirically evident in the academic literature and was echoed by witnesses and Task Force members who have devoted their careers to working on these issues. Training may be helpful in satisfying an employer's legal compliance or making out an affirmative defense to liability. But as a standalone to prevent and reduce harassment in the workplace, it has not proven to be effective. In simplest terms, training must change.
I do want to be clear. We are not suggesting that training be thrown out. Far from it. Rather, we conclude that training, and I mean good training, and our report includes a number of suggestions as to what that means, needs to be part of a holistic, committed effort to combat harassment focused on the specific culture and needs of a particular workplace. In fact, based on the practical and anecdotal evidence we heard from employers and trainers, we conclude that training is an essential component of an anti-harassment effort, but it is one component. It can be effective in stopping harassment, but it cannot stand alone.
That leads me to my final point. If there is one top-line, overarching message that came through to us, it's that leadership and accountability are key. As my colleague said earlier, an employer can have a robust reporting system, offer great training, assess its workplace for risk factors six ways from Sunday. But if there is not committed leadership and buy-in from the top of the very -- the very top of the organization, it may all be for naught. Leadership means devoting the time, energy and resources necessary to prevent harassment modeling those behaviors at the highest level to create a workplace where harassment is not tolerated. In short, accountability must be demonstrated.
I know one point that one of our next witnesses will amplify, and particularly as to training, is-- we recommend that employers dedicate sufficient resources to train middle management and first-line supervisors on how to respond effectively to harassment that they observe -- that they observe that is reported to them or of which they have knowledge.
Finally, let me say, also, what a pleasure it was to work with my colleague and my friend, Commissioner Feldblum. This has been one of many of our collaborations over many years. And I also want to say that our report contains a recommendation -- recommendations for a range of stakeholders, not just for the EEOC, which was one of our goals from the beginning. It's also for employers and many stakeholders who want to make sure that all of us are able to go to work, do our jobs and be free from harassment. Thank you.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you, Commissioner Lipnic and Commissioner Feldblum, for your extraordinary leadership of this effort and the very valuable information that you have pulled together in your report.
At this time, I'd like to invite my colleagues on the Commission to ask questions of our colleagues and we'll each have five minutes. And I will turn it to you, Commissioner Barker.
COMMISSIONER BARKER: Oh, I love this. The prosecutor -- ex-prosecutor in me comes out. Now, for the cross-examination. I want to thank you both. I thought, you know, you did a tremendous job. I had no idea it was 18 months, a big portion of your lives on this. A huge topic to embrace and I thought you did just a great job of bringing people in, hearing testimony, getting a consensus and pulling together this report.
You know -- you both know that one of my focuses has been on sexual harassment of migrant farm worker women, and I particularly appreciated your bringing in Ms. Morales' testimony. Because there is, as both of you had have pointed out and as our other witnesses will point out, such a wide range of what constitutes, you know, illegal harassment, you know, under Title VII, but, to me, this particular form of harassment is the most heinous because the fact that it violates Title VII is only one component of it. It's not only a violation of Title VII, but it's criminal behavior.
And Ms. Morales, while being very tactful about what occurred to her, it was clear that it was an attempted a serious attempted rape and a serious sexual assault, which is criminal behavior. So, what I particularly applaud you for is raising awareness of a conduct that we are in a unique position to try to prevent and to protect these young women who particularly have the cultural and language barriers.
And I was looking at your checklist of things in the workplace that make a workplace particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and checked off like five different elements, you know, the isolation, the, you know, the lack of proximity to an HR department, the, you know, the power that, you know, in the language and cultural barrier. So, I think for you to identify all these is the first step for us to really help protect these young women. So, no questions, but thank you both.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you. Commissioner Burrows.
COMMISSIONER BURROWS: Thank you and I want to add my congratulations and thanks again. I had just a couple of questions. And I'm particularly interested in this idea of accountability that both of you stressed, which seems to me so clear.
And as I take it from the report and from what you've said here today, it's obviously very necessary to have the top layer, the very, you know, right from the C Suite or the top of the agency signal that this is important and to back that up. But it seems that that's necessary, but not sufficient. You really have to get the people who do -- or the doers, that sort of middle management layer fully bought in, and I was wondering if you could speak a little bit more about that.
I know, Commissioner Lipnic, you touched on that in particular, and -- because that, to me, seems like where even the most committed employer that really wants to make a change could get tripped up. And so, I don't know if you have more to say on that.
COMMISSIONER LIPNIC: Sure. Well, one thing and particularly in terms of -- and this was presented in testimony to us and actually Fran Sepler will talk about this, I'm sure, some more, but in terms of first-line supervisors and middle managers; it's not just that you want them to feel that sense of accountability, but you have to equip them for it.
So, they can't, you know, they're busy doing their jobs, right? And they've got to make sure that whatever production has to happen, and they've got to make sure that the people who are working for them are doing that, but they need to know how to respond appropriately when someone complains about harassment. They need to be empowered to understand that they're in charge of the climate in front of them and whatever the workplace is that is in front of them.
So, one of the suggestions we also make, we say, look, climate surveys may be a good opportunity for -- and employers should perhaps think about doing that. That's something that's been adopted now in the military. As we heard from one of the witnesses who testified before our Task Force, that every time they have a change in command, they now demand that there's a climate survey by that -- whoever the new commander is, so that they will then have -- that first-line commander will have that kind of situational awareness.
So, it's both making sure that those first-line managers and supervisors understand that they are going to be accountable, but making sure that they have the skills and the training and know-how to do that and what's expected of them for it.
COMMISSIONER FELDBLUM: And one of the other things we learned in terms of accountability-- two examples. One is that when managers did not respond appropriately, someone from the top leadership was demonstratively involved in the reprimand, in the sanction. And so, other workers saw that that was clearly important to leadership. And when I said that yesterday at a SHRM conference, there were actually murmurs in the audience.
The second thing we heard was the accolades. So, one employer threw a party for a manager who had actually responded well. Now, that was a client who was doing the harassment. So, I think that made it easier for the employer, but there are other ways in which employers can make it clear that if you do have a good climate, you will be rewarded.
COMMISSIONER LIPNIC: And actually let me add one other point to that, which is -- and this was presented to us in testimony, that just because -- and particularly for first-line supervisors and managers, just because you have zero reports of harassment, or you have declining numbers, right, that doesn't necessarily mean that there is not some situation going on.
So, you want to make sure, and upper management wants to make sure, that the reward system, as Commissioner Feldblum was just talking about, that people understand it correctly so that, you know, zero doesn't mean you necessarily have a good situation going on.
COMMISSIONER FELDBLUM: Because it could mean that you are slightly pressuring people not to report if you have a metric of how many complaints you have.
COMMISSIONER BURROWS: Very quickly, one thing that I had been struck with in some of my -- when I was litigating, was that there are certain employers, types of work where you are at risk and you have to be about a team. I'm talking about police and fire in particular. Construction, which we've heard about often, is that you're part of the team. And if the team doesn't back you, you could die, which strikes me as a little different than the regular workplace situation.
I don't know if that was something that you all looked at and if there are particular kinds of things we need to be focused on there.
COMMISSIONER FELDBLUM: Well, I think that's actually where bystander intervention training comes in. Because what we learned is, if there's one person who's doing the harassing or even two, and there are ten people on the team, the other people actually don't like it. It makes them uncomfortable. But they feel if they come forward and say, "Hey, knock, it off," then they'll become the object of harassment. If they know from the leadership that they'll be rewarded if they either come forward and say, "knock it off," or if they don't feel comfortable, if they talk to the first-line supervisor and say, "This is going on, you should do something."
So, it's about having a sense of responsibility and then being given the tools to know what to do.
COMMISSIONER BURROWS: So you empower the coworkers as well as the managers to know how to do deal with it. Thank you.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you. I really appreciated your identifying risk factors for various types of employers. Now, if an employer is reading this report and says, gee, I have a number of those risk factors in my workplace, what recommendations would you have for that employer to take steps to, you know, reevaluate or reboot their own practices?
COMMISSIONER LIPNIC: So, the first thing is, as you rightly identified, to identify those risk factors, right? And as we say, just because you have risk factors, because they're going to be present in every type of work situation, you're going to have hierarchical structures, that doesn't -- that's not an indictment of every workplace, but it does mean that when you -- when we suggest that when employers are looking at their harassment policies or, in particular, the kinds of reporting procedures that they have in place, I come back to the point about employees have to have faith in the reporting system. They have to have -- they have to know that they can trust it. They have to know that if they report, they're not going to experience harassment or retaliation in particular.
So, we would suggest that when employers, you know, when they go through the checklist, or they look at the various risk factors that they have, that they are again conscious of what is it that my workplace is about, and how is it that people go about doing their work, and are there things that we should be conscious of?
I think part of the issue that we confront is that, you know, people, they go about doing their -- they have a harassment policy or they go about doing their training, but they're not conscious of it in the way that they need to be about what their workplace culture is.
Again, we focus not on individual behaviors, but on the culture of the workplace and that's what we hope that people -- that employers will come away from the list of risk factors in recognizing and being more conscious of what is it that their culture is about and where is it that there are those potential risks.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FELDBLUM: And one of the things we did, as Commissioner Barker noted, is we have a set of checklists, four of them, no more than one page or two, so they can be printed out and laminated, from my perspective, and HR people can see, check off, oh, we only do three of these things and take it to the leadership and say, hey, I need more money and resources, I can do the rest. The other thing we did was create a chart of the risk factors.
So, you've got the 12 risk factors listed. There's then the indicia of the risk factors. So, how can you tell if that risk factor is there? Then there is a list of why is that a problematic factor? And then the last chart is, how might you respond?
Now, I will tell you I consider that a beginning, not an end. I would hope that in the training we do, and the EEOC does, I think, some amazing training, that we start to flesh out what are actual responses to those risk factors.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you. One of the things I was struck by from our charge data is that racial harassment is the most common basis for harassment, sex is the second, and disability is third. And I think often people are surprised to learn that we receive such a high percentage of disability-based charges.
Were you able to glean anything from this effort on why or risk factors in particular for disability-based harassment?
COMMISSIONER FELDBLUM: Well, one of the risk factors we note is when people do not seem to conform to the workplace culture or norms. And for the sort of raunchy, rough workplaces, someone with a disability might be at particular risk, but we really don't know enough about these types of harassment.
And I commend the academic community for doing so much on sex-based harassment, but we need to start having funders, government funders, private funders, giving money to research other types of harassment. I mean, one of the things that our charge data showed is that in the private sector, as you noted, there's lots of other bases for the harassment.
In the federal sector, only seven percent of the complaints dealt with sex-based harassment. That means 93 percent were in other bases. We have to look at that as well.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you. And one last question. This report I view as a first stepping source in identifying both the problems and potential solutions and now we need to get to the implementing.
What do you see as the most important steps that need to be taken to begin that implementation?
COMMISSIONER LIPNIC: Well, certainly one thing is that we hope that the training community, right, the workplace training community will really take a look at the kind of training that they are providing and really think about what are the better ways to reach people so that it is not just a check-the-box exercise for employers. And that's something that I think we have to be conscious of, the EEOC, and we certainly hope the employer community, but in particular, the workplace training community, right, the vendors and people who provide that, will take a good look at that. That's certainly one thing.
I hope that -- the other thing that I think is really important is about the reporting systems, what are the systems that people have in place? Again, we're sort of, you know, we're looking at it in a holistic way. I would hope that in particular, employers will really examine their reporting systems and test them. That's one of the things that we recommend.
Don't just, you know, say, well, we have a harassment policy and we have a procedure, and so we're okay, right, but does it actually work? What happens if somebody actually does call the, you know, if they have an 800 number, some hotline, or what happens when somebody does report it to a manager?
And then also, again, to reiterate the point about training those first-line supervisors and managers so that they are equipped and they know what to do, they know how to respond appropriately so that it's not just seen as, well, we've, you know, this is all an HR problem. HR is one part of it. But the people who are really responsible for, you know, the particular business unit or workplace, they're the ones who have to be empowered the most.
COMMISSIONER FELDBLUM: And one of the things we said at our very first Task Force meeting was that we wanted to generate ideas not just for what EEOC should do, but for what other entities in society should do. We are an important piece of the puzzle, but we're only one. So, what I see that the EEOC can do is continue to be a catalyst for bringing folks together.
I mean, we did that in the Select Task Force and we brought people together who otherwise didn't talk with each other and created a safe space for people to talk. I think if we want this report to have that impact, you know, if we want these recommendations to be taken on, we can't sit back. We can't do all of it, but we can be a catalyst in having other people do their bits for each of the recommendations. And that's why the recommendations are listed for the different societal actors.
CHAIR YANG: Well, thanks to you both for the extraordinary leadership that you've shown and for the work of the Task Force. We will take a ten-minute break and we will reconvene at 11:10. Thank you all.
(Whereupon, the proceedings went off the record for a brief recess.)CHAIR YANG: For our third and final panel, we will hear from four witnesses. Commissioner Burrows will be joining us, but I will start with introductions.
Lilia Cortina is a Professor of Psychology in women studies at the University of Michigan. Joseph M. Sellers is a Partner with the law firm of Cohen, Milstein, Sellers and Toll. He also served as a member of the Select Task Force. Fran Sepler is the President of Sepler & Associates. Rae Vann is General Counsel for the Equal Employment Advisory Council, and Ms. Vann also served on our Task Force.
We are privileged to have you all today, and we will start with Ms. Cortina.
MS. CORTINA: Thank you. Good morning, Chair Yang and other members of the Commission. So, I'm Lilia Cortina, Professor of Psychology, women's studies and management at the University of Michigan. And I've specialized in the scientific study of workplace harassment since the early '90s, and also taught courses on gender, diversity and antisocial behavior in organizations. And I testified to the Select Task Force a year ago and it's a privilege to be back here today to speak to you, to the full Commission.
Let me begin by applauding the EEOC for convening the Select Task Force to explore new and creative solutions to harassment in the workplace. The Task Force co-chairs have marshaled the best evidence available, figured out what we know and what we still need to find out, and offered recommendations that are both important and innovative. So, well done.
Several features of the co-chairs' report are especially noteworthy. So, it rightly observes that a great deal of social science has focused on harassment based on sex and gender. For several decades now we have been assessing the prevalence of sexually harassing conduct across a whole host of different organizations, large and small, public and private, urban and rural. And as Commissioner Feldblum noted, these many studies converge on the conclusions that approximately one out of every two women is sexually harassed at some point in her working life. And more often than not, this harassment entails gender harassment. And just to be clear, gender harassment is a put-down, not a come-on. So, this conduct expresses insulting, degrading or contemptuous attitudes about people of one's gender. oftentimes women.
Many members of the public don't realize that this is a form of sexual harassment. That is, it's harassment based on sex. I commend the co-chairs for bringing attention to gender harassment in their report. The report also notes that there's a great deal left to be learned about harassment based on race, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, gender identity and sexual orientation, and I cannot agree more.
Research into so-called intersectional harassment is also badly needed. So, this refers to harassment based on more than one protected characteristic. So, all of us hold multiple social identities which intersect and vary in the degree of privilege and power they afford. So, those with multiple marginalized identities can be multiply victimized. So, for example, lesbian women of color sometimes face a sort of triple whammy of discrimination rooted in gender, ethnic and sexual prejudice.
And this sort of intersectional perspective complicates research and solutions to harassment on the job, but it mirrors reality and it's vital for moving the field forward.
Now, to return to a question posed by Commissioner Feldblum, what do employees do when they're harassed at work? Many studies have tackled this question, and the co-chairs' report noted a striking finding. People rarely report harassment to anyone in authority. And the primary reason cited for not reporting have to do with fear. So, fear of blame, disbelief, inaction, retaliation, humiliation, ostracism and damage to careers and reputations. And we know from research that these kinds of fears are all too often well-founded.
So, for instance, social and professional retaliation against complainants takes place at incredibly high rates. So, the most reasonable response to harassment in many organizations is not to report it, not to complain about it, not even to speak informally to management about the problem, but still reporting mechanisms are sometimes touted as the primary tools organizations should use to remedy harassment.
And in my opinion, there are limits to what reporting on its own can accomplish as it attempts to root out and punish individual harassers one by one, and most complaint processes fail to address broader problems that essentially fuel hostile work environments.
But that said, don't get me wrong, organizations absolutely do need reporting systems, but they also need to do more to protect the employees who choose to make use of those systems. And reporting should not stand alone as the only solution to workplace harassment. Instead, as the co-chairs recommend, this should be one of many components of a holistic anti-harassment effort. So, what else should this sort of effort include?
Well, for years I've been advocating that anti-harassment interventions be embedded into broader initiatives to reduce incivility and promote respect in organizations. Incivility is usually thought of as an identity-neutral behavior, making no overt reference to gender, race or other social category. And courts have emphasized that anti-discrimination statutes are not a general civility code. However, research shows that so-called general incivility is often not so general after all, sometimes representing a covert expression of bias based on protected characteristics. But to quote Mr. Gill, who spoke earlier, it's in a format where one can have deniability.
Also, everyday incivility seems to go hand-in-hand with more overt identity-based harassment. Where there is one, you will often find the other. It could be that incivility acts as a sort of gateway drug, if you will, being a precursor to more egregious forms of abuse. So, for these reasons, I have proposed that incivility reduction might help in the reduction of harassment, and I'm delighted to see this idea make its way into the report's recommendations.
A final theme I'd like to note, which runs throughout the co-chairs' report, is that certain topics cry out for more research attention. A major barrier to this work is a lack of funding. So, workplace harassment is currently not a top priority for the federal funding agencies like NSF or NIH. And even when researchers do have outside funding, many organizations will not let us in the door to study them. So, some are afraid of what we'll find, or they worry that results will increase their legal liability.
So, like Commissioner Feldblum and Commissioner Lipnic, I hope the work of this Task Force motivates change in the funding landscape surrounding harassment and encourages employers to open themselves up to scientific study. With better data on these problems, organizations will be better equipped to combat them.
So, let me just close by emphasizing that social scientists have uncovered a great deal about harassment on the job, but we still have a lot of work to do and miles to go before we sleep. I commend you for this important work that you're doing here at the EEOC and welcome any questions you may have later. Thank you.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you, Ms. Cortina. Mr. Sellers.
MR. SELLERS: Madam Chair, members of the Commission, thank you very much for having me here today. And in particular, thank you for the honor of serving on this Task Force. I am humbled to be one of two representatives of the Task Force members. Along with my colleague and new friend, Rae Vann, I will do my best to represent the views of the other Task Force members, many of whom are here today.
I found the work especially significant of the Task Force because of the importance of the subject that we addressed, the thoughtfulness of the discussions that we had informed by a wide range of views, and by the leadership of Commissioners Feldblum and Lipnic, who, by virtue of the way they conducted the meetings and their interaction, led me and others to think of them as our dynamic duo. Although the report was prepared by the Commissioners, I think it fairly reflects the discussions and other evidence that were presented during the Task Force proceedings.
We considered harassment, as you know, in its many facets. We certainly focused on traditional sexual harassment, racial harassment, harassment of language minorities, harassment against older workers and people with disabilities and religious harassment. But we also recognized that, unfortunately, harassment evolves, and that today we face harassment in new forms against Muslims and people who appear to be Middle Eastern and against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that the workplace is, and often does reflect, the tensions and the debates in our broader society, and we have to be prepared to recognize that harassment is going to continue to evolve as our society does, and not be static in the way that we think when we think about harassment.
While we've come a long way since the Meritor Savings Bank decision 30 years ago, we're far from eliminating the scourge from the workplaces of America. We've heard about the number of charges and federal sector complaints that, in fact, have been made that reflect widespread views of workers about the incidents of harassment, but I think more telling, and certainly consistent with my more than 30 years of private practice representing workers, is the survey results reflecting that many incidents of harassment go unredressed and are not noted, and the victims don't complain about them.
Therefore, the presence of complaints is not a reliable indicator whether workplace harassment has occurred. And as we all know, once complaints are made, much of the destruction caused by workplace harassment will have already occurred, regardless of whether the complaint is ultimately proved in a legal proceeding or not. These kinds of complaints and the incidents of harassment obviously generate antagonisms, mistrust, personal injury that harassment breeds, as well as distractions from workplace, from productive work and damages to reputations. And as we recognize the absence of complaints, it is no guarantee that a workplace is free from harassment any more than a workplace with complaints means that harassment is necessarily widespread. Therefore, I applaud the co-chairs for the focus less on whether harassment is occurring or how widespread it is than factors that suggest heightened risk of harassment. I believe that is one of the major contributions this report has made to our understanding of the phenomenon, and hopefully ways in which we can all be more attentive to it.
The presence of risk factors, of course it doesn't mean that, as was noted, that harassment is necessarily occurring, but prudent employers and employees alike should recognize that those create a heightened chance that workplace harassment has occurred or could occur. I think the lesson from the risk factor analysis is that constant vigilance is necessary, focused, perhaps on these risk factors.
We obviously spoke also about other areas and the tools in the arsenal, the -- to address harassment training, the role of executives and senior managers, any harassment policies and third party intervention strategies.
Finally, I want to make -- say a word about the process we followed itself, because I commend it for future use. I think there were certain features that made it especially valuable, the membership being comprised of various stakeholders, the mix of meetings that were open to the public to benefit from public perspectives, and meetings closed to the public to promote candid exchanges, the requirement that the Task Force not necessarily reach consensus on particular points, although we generally did, and the, of course, the collegial style of the bipartisan chair, co-chairs that I think was especially valuable. Thank you very much.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you Mr. Sellers. Ms. Sepler.
MS. SEPLER: Chairperson Yang, Members of the Commission, thank you so much for the opportunity to speak with you today. By way of background, I'm a consultant, trainer, fact finder. I have conducted over 700 independent investigations and done training for over 150,000 people in my 30 years in business.
In September of last year, I had the opportunity to speak to the Select Task Force on Harassment. I was asked to share observations from "on the ground" or "in the field," and I had been asked to identify organizational risk factors for harassment and describe strategies that are effective for combating harassment. Several key points I made at that time are reflected in the excellent report of the Task Force, and I'd like to emphasize them here today.
Mr. Gill, in his moving and courageous testimony, talked about how his harassers learned how to harass in the organization. Healthy organizational cultures nourish respectful behaviors and stifle those that are abusive and harassing. When you have an absence of a healthy culture, harassment thrives, and it becomes generational-- passed on from one group of workers to the next. Therefore, I particularly laud the Task Force in speaking to the importance of culture and accountability as a factor in harassment.
While I concur with the Task Force's report statement on Page 38 that "It starts at the top," I emphatically believe that middle managers are where the rubber hits the road in organizational accountability. They set the tone, they recognize the problems as they develop, and they respond with urgency and empathy to complaints.
In fact, my firm has conducted research that suggests that how a supervisor responds to a fresh complaint of harassment is one of the most potent factors in whether that individual will end up bringing a charge before the EEOC or their state human rights commission.
To that end, I was recently engaged in a project with an industrial facility that was absolutely teeming with harassment and discriminatory behavior, sexually, ethnically, national origin and racially-charged environment. The solution was not wagging fingers and laying blame, although some disciplinary action was necessary. But the solution instead was broad management and leadership developed supervisory training. Most of them had been promoted because they were good at what they did, not because they knew how to lead people.
The model we used was very simple. We told them that there are three questions that every employee should be answering with a yes; do you feel respected at work? Does your employer value you? And does the work you do matter? We spent months getting them to yes. And now every month, we poll their employees to determine what their answers are to that question. Their bonuses are predicated on getting yeses.
Secondly, I spoke of the hazards of organizations characterized by eminence, what the report refers to as "superstars." Superstars are important to organizations and they receive many privileges because they're so good at what they do. They get special accommodations, they receive exceptional compensation, their offices may be much nicer than others.
However, they also get certain kinds of unearned privilege: the privilege of behaving badly; the privilege of treating others in ways that are uncivil, harassing, or even worse. And this happens because rainmakers and eminent professors don't really have managers. They have individuals or groups who try to keep them happy and productive, and they recognize that the loss of these individuals would reflect poorly on their paychecks or on the reputations of their institutions. And so, they look the other way.
I shared with the Task Force my experience with a professor who for years had his foreign doctoral students wash his feet, clean his toilets and service him sexually. It took one of those students finishing her doctorate, moving to another university and then getting tenure to provide her with a feeling of sufficient safety to bring her concerns forward. We found eight other students to whom this had happened, and I'm sad to say to you that that professor is still working at that university.
Finally, in the September meeting, we discussed training. It's my opinion that education about harassment and how to prevent it and address it is necessary, but the effectiveness of such efforts hinge on whether such training can penetrate beyond the head and get to the heart.
Thirty years into my career doing training for every sector of organization, I generally decline to do freestanding anti-harassment training. I simply don't believe it's effective. I believe that it's only effective when we think about harassment and bullying and other forms of abusive behaviors as derailers to the real goal of the training, which is creating a respectful work environment. What you in your report, Commissioners, described as "civility training."
My firm's training frames harassment as one of a variety of derailers. We focus instead on bystander capabilities, understanding that the absence of disrespect does not create respect, but that respect is an affirmative responsibility, and encouraging people to speak up and telling them how to do it, just as we teach managers what to say and what not to say when someone comes to them. We have taught them to say "thank you" and we've taught them not to say "what was your part in it?"
Finally, as an investigator and a frequent speaker on this topic, I'm always asked, isn't it going away, aren't we done with harassment? Harassment continues. And when I do training and I say, why don't people bring their complaints forward, why does it take over a year for people to raise these issues; it takes less than three seconds for my audience to answer "fear." Thank you so much for speaking so directly to that in your report. The fear of reprisal, the fear of nothing happening, the fear of the wrong thing happening, is a sign that employers have much more work to do.
Finally, I heard human resources mentioned here today, but I also heard the importance of having those high-level executives involved in congratulating people who do the job well. I think we have reached the point where we cannot delegate responsibility for this issue to human resources, but must hold organizational leaders directly accountable, and thank you so much for saying so in your report. Thank you.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you, Ms. Sepler. Ms. Vann.
MS. VANN: Thank you, Chair Yang and Commissioners. Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today with my colleague, Joe Sellers, about our experiences as members of the Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace. I am afraid that as the last panelist, I may be a bit repetitive in my remarks, but I ask you to bear with me.
Thank you again for the opportunity to participate in this very important effort. I am especially grateful to the Task Force co-chairs, Commissioners Lipnic and Feldblum, for their strong and steady leadership this past year, which really did serve, and we heard this earlier today as an example to those of us coming from very different backgrounds and orientations and perspectives, of what true bipartisan collaboration looks like. So, thank you very much.
I also wish to express appreciation to Joe and my other colleagues on the Task Force, who all brought an incredible sense of purpose, energy and dedication to our charge, and from whom I learned a great deal. I am one of several Task Force members whose principal constituency is the respondent community. I've been deeply involved in working with employers on developing meaningful and effective EEO, proactive EEO and non-discrimination compliance programs. And so, that is the frame of reference from which I speak to you today.
The employer community generally, and EEAC member companies in particular, have a very strong interest in proactively preventing workplace harassment, and where issues do arise, in ensuring that reports of harassing behaviors are dealt with properly and swiftly. They also seek to cultivate workplace environments and cultures that reject the types of attitudes and behaviors that we've talked about today that perhaps on their own may not give rise to actionable harassment, but certainly if left unresolved or unaddressed, can create the type of inhospitable atmosphere and environment that can form a breeding ground for those types of behaviors that lead to harassment.
Why is this important? Because those attitudes certainly may lead to charges and lawsuits from a liability standpoint, but perhaps more importantly, because such behavior can impact and does impact employee morale, health, well-being and significantly can and will reduce workplace productivity and efficiency.
As Commissioners Feldblum and Lipnic have said, there's no question that more needs -- and as my co-panelists have said, there's no question that more needs to be done in this space, both in terms of research, but also in terms of employer efforts to reboot their compliance programs and their proactive prevention practices.
This report, the co-chair report to the Commission, is a positive step in the right direction, adding value to what has been, to this point, uneven research, as we've heard, regarding the possible risk factors for workplace harassment, as well as the efficacy of conventional prevention efforts including, most notably, anti-harassment training. Also, employers of every size may benefit greatly from the report's inclusion of promising practices and the checklists aimed at, again, preventing harassment up front.
For me, the co-chairs' report offers three important take-aways. First, despite our collective best efforts, workplace harassment continues to persist at unacceptable levels. I hope that the report will spark renewed interest in putting into place meaningful prevention efforts, as we've discussed throughout the course of the morning, educating employers about the undeniable business case for preventing harassment, and empowering harassment victims to come forward with the confidence that doing so will not result in unjustified adverse action against them.
Second, while it is vital to ensure that complaints are resolved quickly and effectively, proactive harassment prevention, as we've been discussing throughout the course of the morning, should really be at the forefront of those efforts. With that, Commissioners Lipnic and Feldblum made a concerted effort, I believe, to understand whether and to what extent, harassment risk factors do exist and what steps can be taken to address those risks. And some of the tools and the take-aways that have been included in the report, I think, will really move the ball forward insofar as equipping employers especially, perhaps smaller employers that may not have as sophisticated compliance structures and mechanisms as large employers, really help them to get to where they need to be on the proactive prevention front.
The Task Force heard from a number of witnesses who confirmed the need to identify and monitor for conditions that could encourage the types of behaviors that may not be actionable on their own, but if left unaddressed, again, could lead to unlawful harassment. I hope that employers and stakeholders will be able to use that research to refine and improve their harassment prevention efforts.
Finally, and to that end, while corporate anti-harassment training is included in virtually every prevention program, as we've heard; often it is the only method consistently used to educate employers, employees, supervisors and managers about their rights and responsibilities under EEO laws and company policies.
So, given the research suggesting that more needs to be done, we need to take that to heart. But at the same time, I want to be clear that the message, I think, is not that anti-harassment training categorically is ineffective and should be abandoned. Rather, as co-chairs Lipnic and Feldblum has concluded in the report, meaningful, differentiated anti-harassment training, if developed and delivered in a thoughtful and meaningful way, remains an indispensable part of any employer's overall discrimination and harassment prevention program.
The persistence of protected-basis harassment in American workplaces, even at a time when the federal government has been very involved and proactive in enforcing those laws, strongly suggests that traditional anti-harassment policies and practices are in need of a reboot, the term of art today. I am optimistic that this report will empower business leaders to renew their commitment to seeking innovative and smart ways to prevent workplace harassment and to promote safe, respectful and inclusive workplaces. Thank you.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you, Ms. Vann. I think it's clear from all of your testimony today how valuable having this depth and breadth of expertise is for the Commission and for employers and employees more broadly in addressing this very difficult issue that is in need of, as everyone has identified today, more that needs to be done.
What we'd like to do now is move on to questions from the Commission. We'll have two rounds of questions, and we'll start with five minutes each. I wanted to start by asking you all a question about the more that needs to be done.
We have all agreed that there are real steps employers can take to prevent harassment in the workplace to change cultures. Why do you think employers have not invested in some of those practices so far? Is it a lack of awareness? Is it because these issues are particularly hard and uncomfortable to deal with? And what are some of your suggestions on what we as the EEOC can do to raise the profile on some of these issues, as well as sort of the broader community that is working on these issues? And I'd be happy to start with you, Rae.
MS. VANN: Thank you. That's a great question. I just want to say that I don't believe that employers have been unwilling to do more. I think it's more that we really have been largely unaware of some of the real challenges associated with conventional and traditional anti-harassment or harassment prevention programs.
I think insofar as what more needs to be done really involves collecting the data especially on harassment in other shapes and forms outside of the sex harassment or sexual harassment context, and educating all stakeholders about what that looks like, how it affects people.
I think part of the difficulty is that we do what we know is a problem and we do what we think is the solution to that problem. And if we know that sexual harassment is and has been a problem for many, many years, and we know that we have to train our people, that's what we're going to do.
And so, knowing now that there's some research that suggests or confirms perhaps that training can't be -- is not the end-all-be-all, and that there are other forms of harassment that are really much more pervasive than I think people would have understood, race and disability harassment to your point earlier being two of those forms of harassment, I think that will help to encourage employers to take a fresh look at what they have been doing.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you. Ms. Sepler.
MS. SEPLER: Well, I think that one of the challenges is that preventing harassment is viewed often by organizational leaders as an HR compliance issue and not as a core business issue, not as something that's part of the culture.
I think a second problem we have is that the efforts that have been made, sexual harassment training in organizations are very unpopular. When I start my training programs, I say, "How many of you are excited to see me today?" Nobody raises their hand. And I point out that the bar is so low that all I have to do is be okay and I've exceeded it. And the fact is there's a lot of very dismal shaming, blaming, depressing training out there. And so, to create a -- create a will for it, there has to be some positive feedback upstairs saying, "This was great, I'm glad we did it."
And then, the only other piece that I would add is that it does require resources to do this well. And so, where you have large, highly-resourced corporations with well-organized corporate counsel and HR departments, you've got someone clamoring for the resources to do it well. In mid-sized and smaller companies, this is very often a matter of checking the boxes at the least cost possible. And I don't know how to remedy that, but I certainly know it's a reality.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you. Mr. Sellers.
MR. SELLERS: I have similar views as the other two witnesses. Just to summarize two points I would make, one is, I think too often human resources, and this kind of addressing harassment and preventing it, is simply viewed as a cost. It's not a profit center in a business. And as a result, the battle to get the resources is often lost, and I think the case has to be made better, and this report does a very good job of it, that addressing and anticipating and preventing harassment is a way of improving the business productivity. It is a way to make the business more profitable. And I think that case has to be made better than it has been.
The second is that we're all busy at businesses and that if there are no complaints and there are no problems, people move on, they focus on their own work. I'm hoping that this report, by identifying areas to focus on, will give diligent managers discrete areas where they can focus their attention even if they see that -- don't see any particular problems.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you. Professor Cortina, I am almost out of time, but I would --
MS. CORTINA: I will be brief.
CHAIR YANG: Okay. Thank you.
MS. CORTINA: So, my general sense is that -- why haven't employers done more? So, many have focused on issues of compliance and the law and putting structures and mechanisms into place to protect them from legal liability, and there's been less focus in a lot of places on general issues of respect, less focus on all the behaviors that are disrespectful and perhaps even harassing, but that don't rise to the level of statutory violation. So, I really appreciate that the co-chairs' report focuses on misconduct broadly speaking and not limited to the narrow slice of behavior that violates law. And I'll end there.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you. Commissioner Barker.
COMMISSIONER BARKER: Thank you. I have some other questions, but I would like to start out with Ms. Sepler. This whole concept of bystander intervention training that you're talking about that you do, I'm real interested in that and how you -- how you convince a culture of employees to fully embrace it. Most people by nature don't want to get involved in other people's problems, particularly if the victim, him or herself is not -- is not willing to come forward. How do you convince, you know, employees that even if a victim does not, that they should?
MS. SEPLER: There are several devices that we use to encourage people to participate in bystander interventions. Increasingly, my private sector clients are including in their anti-harassment policies an affirmative responsibility on the part of every employee to bring concerns forward, whether they are involved or not.
COMMISSIONER BARKER: Well, that was going to be my second question which is, does it involve -- are companies adopting disciplinary measures if you do not, and how do they -- how do they get -- I mean, that's really wading into the weeds. You take a situation, even if it's a reported situation, then you take, you know, 50 employees who are all working together in a work space and decide, you know, who knew, who did not know, to what extent did this person know, should this person be disciplined, should that person be -- I mean, how do they do that effectively?
MS. SEPLER: It's a good question. I would respond by saying that I think that the policies are put there more as a cultural imperative than as a source to discipline. And I've rarely seen individuals disciplined because, if they really believe the policy is legit, they're doing it. They're bringing concerns forward through the multiple channels available.
However, I think certainly to the degree that somebody says I told this coworker and I told that coworker, that could lead to somebody being held accountable for failing to do it.
I wanted to respond to your initial question as well on -- and not to give my sort of business tricks and secrets away here, but one of the devices that I found to bring people around to bystander thinking, it's a little corny, is I tell the story of Kitty Genovese in the street in New York City, being murdered while people watch from their windows, and I lay out the sort of moral imperative of, would you be one of them, or would you be somebody to do something to help?
Then we talk about the fact that misbehavior, mistreatment, disrespectful treatment, harassment is abusing somebody, and how many of you would sit by while somebody was abused and not do something? And we sort of walk them in, and we've actually followed up on our training program I have in two large corporations and found that third-party reports have substantially increased after that kind of encouragement and very specific, very behavioral instructions are given about exactly how to do it and what the options are that you don't have to jump in there and be the hero, that it can be taking the person aside and saying, I saw what happened to you, here's, you know, can I come with you to report? What are some things we can do? What would you like me to do? So, giving them very behavioral-specific strategies after helping them see really the power they have to shape their work environment seems to be effective.
COMMISSIONER BARKER: And, Ms. Vann, do you have any reaction or thoughts to the effectiveness of bystander training and, you know, what do your -- what do you hear from your members about how effective that is or to what extent they're able to do it?
MS. VANN: I think the idea of bystander training is really rather novel and you don't see a whole lot of organizations really taking that on because, again, I think to the point that several others have made, the primary focus I think to this point has been on compliance and ensuring that the law is being followed, that people are being educated as to what their rights and responsibilities are.
I think the idea of bystander training is very intriguing and could be very effective in changing the culture of incivility. That said, employers are constrained by other restrictions that have been placed on them with respect to confidentiality, with respect to even having policies that encourage employees to be respectful of one another. So, there still needs to be work done to make sure that not only bystander training can be implemented effectively, but that employers aren't punished for their efforts to ensure the privacy and protection and well-being of those who are involved.
COMMISSIONER BARKER: Thank you very much.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you. Commissioner Feldblum.
COMMISSIONER FELDBLUM: Thank you. Thank you so much. You all with your testimony and your answers are doing exactly what I hoped would happen, which is we learned so much from all of you, and we wanted to bring you to not only the full Commission, but also to the general public.
I also want to reinforce that for employees to feel that their leaders are authentic, they have to see that the two most important commodities in the workplace, which is time and money, is being used for this, you know, what's in the budget, what's on the calendar.
And I also want to say that on the bystander intervention training, as I noted, it's been used significantly in educational settings. We don't know yet how to best apply it in the workplace. We need to start with those who have been using it, but it is about the research to sort of see how were things before, and then how are things after. So, to that, Commissioner Lipnic mentioned the idea of climate surveys and we heard about that from the military that they are, in fact, using it.
I'm wondering, Professor Cortina, if you could talk a bit about what is a climate survey, how is it used?
MS. CORTINA: Sure. So, different organizations do different things in their climate surveys. There are oftentimes sort of a broad survey of the full workforce or representative cross-section of the workforce asking about specific behavioral experiences around these different kinds of harassment or incivility or disrespect, and also kind of just more generally what is the -- how do you experience the culture in your specific unit? And the advantage of these kinds of surveys, you can do them periodically. The military conducts big service-wide surveys every certain number of years. And even though they have a lot of problems, they're ahead of a lot of organizations in many respects in terms of having a lot of data that can inform the -- their efforts moving forward. And I think that a lot of, you know, companies that take this kind of work seriously, look to the survey efforts not as a source of liability, but more a source of information so that they can increase their efforts, figure out what kinds of trainings they might need, what kind of interventions are working or not working, where they need to make course corrections. And so, they can be very effective solutions and there are a lot of ways researchers can work with employers to make sure that the data are anonymized if you will, so that employees' identities can't be figured out from the data. The companies' identities are anonymous in whatever ways need be, so that it doesn't increase their risk, but instead is a source of support for them and their efforts.
COMMISSIONER FELDBLUM: Both Mr. Sellers and Ms. Vann, you talked a bit about the experience of being on the Task Force and I appreciate that.
In terms of looking forward about what sort of worked with it, although I have told Chair Yang I'm not co-chairing another one any time soon, I think it was important that the Task Force was not required to come to consensus and that the Task Force members didn't have to read a report and wordsmith to see if they agreed. It was a report of the co-chairs, but I wonder if each of you could talk a bit more about how that did affect you and the work of the Task Force that you didn't have to come to consensus. So, maybe Mr. Sellers and then Ms. Vann.
MR. SELLERS: Thank you. Yes, I think it was very important that we -- that there was no requirement that we wordsmith, that we negotiate our positions, that people spoke very freely, candidly, and I think it actually was very interesting. And particularly, in the private meetings, the views that were expressed often were not associated with the views you would expect of the people when they left the room. And so, it was a mark of, I think, the candor with which people spoke.
So, I think being unencumbered by the burden of negotiating positions is very important to getting candid reactions that the authors of the report can then use as they wish.
COMMISSIONER FELDBLUM: Okay. And my time is almost up, but Ms. Vann.
MS. VANN: I agree completely. Instead of seeing the respective constituencies or stakeholder representatives retreating to their respective corners, you saw people really engaging in candid and tough discussions and debates. It's not that people left their perspectives at the door, but you had an opportunity to really discuss and try to come to solutions without the pressure of having to make sure that every single issue that is important to your constituency is well-represented in a final, published report, not to say that obviously, we wanted to make sure of it.
COMMISSIONER FELDBLUM: Yes. We didn't want you to leave your perspectives at the door. Thank you so much.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you. Commissioner Lipnic.
COMMISSIONER LIPNIC: Thank you Madam Chair. And thank you to our witnesses. And to my colleagues, you're getting a good flavor of what our Task Force meetings were like. One thing I do want to note for the record, since we talked about this at the beginning, that this is, this week is the 30th anniversary of the Meritor Savings Bank case. And I do want to note that Joe Sellers actually represented Michelle Vinson on the remand from the Supreme Court, so in addition to all his other expertise that he brought to our Task Force and his work.
I want to ask both Professor Cortina and Ms. Sepler if you could amplify on the point that you made picking up on Mr. Gill's testimony about cultures, where it's sort of generation after generation that, you know, behaviors get instilled and what you do, without asking you to reveal your trade secrets, to try to break that type of generational harassment that's just being passed down. So, Ms. Sepler, do you want to go first?
MS. SEPLER: The wisdom on organizational culture, and I turn to the scholar Edgar Schein whose really sort of similar work on organizational culture is that it takes five years to change a culture, that you can't come in and say we're going to stop what we've been doing, but instead, it's incremental and it involves changing people's hearts and minds and building for them an understanding of what will improve for them if they make changes.
And so, it starts with a burning platform at the leadership level talking about what's going to happen if we don't change. And that means taking things seriously. It's really my belief that it is only a visionary company that is going -- or organization that is going to say, hey, we need to do something about our culture because it's not working for us, people don't complain, people leave, they don't feel the pain. But when they do feel the pain, when that large claim comes, when the serious charge comes, that's the burning platform that often begins at -- and it is a deliberate, clear process of talking about how things get done. It is a deliberate, clear process of holding people accountability. And it is a deliberate and clear process of truly changing your core beliefs about what people deserve at work.
It's hard, it's time consuming and it's expensive. And unless there's pain or a new visionary leader, it's very unlikely to be successful, very honestly.
COMMISSIONER LIPNIC: And before you answer, Professor Cortina, can I ask in terms of the expenses, so how does that expense of compare to the expense of what's going on, you know, the culture you're trying to change?
MS. SEPLER: Well, of course, the hidden costs of a toxic culture are enormous. Turnover, lack of productivity, employee sabotage, everything in between is tremendously expensive, but those are expenses -- those are expenses that are often hidden and they simply view them as costs of doing business. So, until that big, significant check has to be written, it's very often not compelling to leaders in an organization that's not doing well, that they need to change.
COMMISSIONER LIPNIC: Professor?
MS. CORTINA: I completely agree with everything that Ms. Sepler has just said. I'll just add briefly that we found through research that organizational climate is one of the most powerful predictors of whether harassment takes place and whether it's damaging when it does. And when we think about specific factors that indicate whether it's a good climate or a poor climate, we think about things like whether harassment complaints are taken seriously if an employee does come forward, whether a complainant is protected from retaliation, whether perpetrators are sanctioned appropriately and swiftly. And when these things happen, people take notice, employees take notice, or when these things don't happen. And so, this is where you end up seeing problems with these -- the toxic climates, if you will, being passed on generationally or from one employee to the other. And likewise, when the appropriate things are in place, the good practices, if you will, get passed on ideally.
COMMISSIONER LIPNIC: Thank you.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you. Commissioner Burrows.
COMMISSIONER BURROWS: Yes, and welcome to everyone here. Back in April the Chair and I sat down with a broad group of religious -- from various religious communities to talk about the kinds of harassment and other discrimination issues that they've been seeing. And we were down in Birmingham and one of the things that came up over and over again was this issue of the fear of reporting.
And there was some -- though I think it was overall a very optimistic and hopeful and interesting meeting, there was some feeling that there is, on the one hand, in places where it's really bad, you're not going to get the employer to do all the wonderful things that you all have been talking about today, and at the same time there's a real fear, particularly for minority religions, to, you know, to complain.
And I think one Rabbi in the room used the term, you know, we need to make it kosher to complain, and that there's a real fear down south and, you know, we can't avail ourselves of a Commissioner's charge or any -- sort of everyone knows that when there's a complaint about religion, it's going to be the Jew, the one Jew or the one, you know, I mean, there's no way for it not to be, you know, particularly put that person on the spotlight.
And so, I was wondering if you all have suggestions for things that we as Commission or that employees should be thinking about that could make it easier for it to become kosher to complain or that workers together, if it's part of the bystander training, could learn even if the employer is not going to do it, how to take action. So, that's to each of you. Joe.
MR. SELLERS: I'll start. I'm sure the others have much more scholarly views of this, but my sense is that you have to -- and probably start with the top, communicate that complaints should be viewed as acts of good corporate citizenship. It's a way of calling attention to a problem that the company should be pleased to address and hopefully avoid for the future.
And so, rather than thinking of those who complain as pariahs or being disloyal or troublemakers, which, unfortunately, happens far too often; the leadership needs to celebrate that and some way while recognizing that they're making a complaint that's maybe legally adversarial, but that the problem they're focusing on, is something the company wants to look into and try to address.
COMMISSIONER BURROWS: Yes, Ms. Vann.
MS. VANN: I agree with that as well, but I would just want to emphasize that this is a problem that we have as a society, right? It's not limited to the private sector employment context. We see it in educational institutions, we see it in the military. There are real problems with retaliation and reprisals taken against people who complain.
I think to bring it back to the private sector context, one of the things that can be done much more effectively, is to send a clear message to people, employees, that there are consequences. You may not be held liable, somebody might not go after you in a court of law and take your house away, but here, where company policy and procedure is the rule of law, if you engage in this type of behavior, you could well lose your job. And I think we just need to do a much clearer job of elevating the risk profile of retaliatory behavior.
One of the other things that we talked about as a Task Force was this notion of there not being any complaints. And I think Commissioner Lipnic talked about it earlier. That's not necessarily a good thing. People, and stakeholders overall, employees and employers and the Commission need to appreciate that perhaps as a company is going through this five-year process, if you see an increase in complaints, that doesn't necessarily mean that you're dealing with a bad employer that has a pattern and practice of unlawful harassment or misbehavior. It may be that they're bringing some things to the forefront that need to be brought to the forefront so that they can be addressed.
COMMISSIONER BURROWS: Ms. Sepler or Professor Cortina?
MS. CORTINA: I would support everything that's been said, a couple of quick additions. Your question brought to mind a visit I made to a slaughterhouse, I'm sure there's a better way to describe it, and I happened to be wearing a Jewish Star around my neck. And one of the employees came to me and he said, shh, I'm Jewish as well, don't tell anybody here, I've never disclosed it to them, they can't know, you know, I -- it's very dangerous for us.
And so, the answer to the question is,diversity and inclusion in the first place, to make it okay to be someone who's different, to foster an environment of respect and safety for people to bring their identity to work.
I've also seen very practically ombuds systems put in place, 1-800 numbers that can be called, people outside the organization who can take the complaint and preserve some degree of privacy for the complainant. That gives a feeling of insulation and maybe a little bit more protection from retaliation.
More than anything else I do believe that creating peer support is very important. As Commissioner Feldblum said earlier, even though people are going along with bad behavior, they don't like it. And if they are given permission to say to somebody, I see what's happening to you and I will go with you, I will be there for you and I will support you and say it's happening, too, that that creates a sense of safety and courage that -- unlike anything else, I think, in the workplace.
MS. CORTINA: So, a couple of panelists have already mentioned retaliation. Just to say a couple more points about that, we actually -- we see retaliation all the time in lawsuits, but the research community actually has not put a lot of focus there. But where we have looked at it more closely, we've seen that retaliation is alarmingly common, that retaliation happens after complaints are lodged, during the complaint process, and even before the complaints ever arise in the sense to kind of prevent or deter the complainant from coming forward.
It takes kind of more obvious professional forms, changes in job assignments and opportunities and that sort of thing, but what's much more common are social forms of retaliation. So, coworkers blaming you, treating you like a troublemaker, ostracizing you, gossiping about you in unkind ways and that's even harder to pinpoint, to get a handle on to correct.
So, I would just add that we need to have a better understanding of what retaliation is, what fuels it, what might prevent it or what might prevent some of the harms that ensue when someone has gone through some horrible harassing experience and actually had the courage to come forward about it and then they are mistreated even further. How can we protect and support those employees?
CHAIR YANG: Thank you. We will now move on to our second round of questions and we'll have again five minutes each to ask those questions. Commissioner Barker.
COMMISSIONER BARKER: Well, I'd like to shift the focus a little bit, because we're -- what we've been focusing on appropriately is the -- Commissioner Feldblum, Commissioner Lipnic's report examining the problem and what can be done about where are we in 2016 and what can we -- what can we as a Commission do in the future, but what I'd like to shift the focus to, and I look to Ms. Vann and Mr. Sellers for this answer is, you know, I'm thinking back about when I started practicing law and started dealing with Title VII cases, which was more years ago than I want to think about. And I know that both of you have spent your careers in this area of law, too. And what I -- what -- I have two questions to ask you.
Number one, have we made progress? I know, Mr. Sellers, you pointed out that, that the type of harassment that we're seeing now is evolving, you know, we're seeing different kinds of harassment now than we ever envisioned in the, you know, late '60s/early '70s, but number one is have we made progress, which I'm hoping you'll say yes and, you know, describe that progress to me if it is.
And, two, to what extent do you think that this problem will become much better, even possibly disappear, although human nature is human nature, you know, it can never totally disappear, with the rise of millennials in the workplace. Because, you know, I'm thinking about these 20 somethings, who grew up in a much more enlightened environment than my generation did or the generation before me.
So, while my generation struggled with even the concept of women being allowed in the workplace, you know, that's totally foreign to millennials, for example. Or, you know, to even consider the different colors of people's skin is totally foreign to millennials in the workplace. So, two-part question, Mr. Sellers.
MR. SELLERS: So, the answer to your first question, have we made progress, is absolutely, we have made progress. The -- but we have a lot more work to do. Just the fact that we're having this hearing, that we've had this report and the like, I think, is a reflection as a society that we take workplace harassment very seriously.
Nobody has come to the Task Force saying, well, you know, we are over regulating in this area, we really should let people just behave the way they want to behave and that whole set of options which used to be very defensible in the '60s and '50s has seemed at least from what I can tell, to be off the table. So, I think we have made a lot of progress in the discussion. We have a lot more to do.
On the issue of the millennials, I likewise think that the millennials are going to change the discussion about harassment. They have grown up with a different kind of society, more integrated communities, many of them, the interaction by gender has been of a different sort than what has -- many of them have seen and been comfortable with women in the workplace in ways that people that weren't necessarily in the past, but I want to emphasize, again, a point I made which is I think we're going to see harassment evolving.
I don't think the fact that millennials come to the workplace is going to mean there's going to be no more harassment. I can't tell you what form it will take necessarily, but I think that the important thing is we have to be ready for it, we have to be vigilant about it, because I don't think the dynamics of the workplace are going to change in a way and, therefore, I think there will be opportunities for harassment going forward.
COMMISSIONER BARKER: Thank you Mr. Sellers. Ms. Vann?
MS. VANN: I agree with -- largely with everything that Joe just said. Yes, there has been progress. Although, we should be careful not to rest on our laurels and think that as we've seen through this past 18 months, that the problem has been solved, I think the type of harassment that we've seen recently, and we likely will see in the future, is evolving, and can be triggered by any number of different things. New or recent immigrant groups, political discourse, things happening in the world around us. I don't think that we can hope to eradicate society completely of bullying behavior and there are always going to be bullies who want to take advantage of people who they believe are lesser or who are -- lesser, I guess, is a good way to describe it.
As far as the millennial folks coming into the workplace, I agree with Joe again. I think, yes, you see a lot more consciousness, a lot more diversity and inclusion, but, there is still that harassing component on different levels. I have heard of millennials shaming perhaps older workers for their focus on particular aspects of work or life that -- with which they disagree, that may have an EEO component or a diversity D&I component. So, I think what we may be talking about 20 years from now -- God, I hope I'm not talking about it 20 years from now, but what we may be talking about 20 years from now is much different from what we're talking about here.
Perhaps this is the second generation of workplace harassment risk factors that we need to be looking at, but I think that we need to be careful not to create an expectation that, well, as our world becomes more diverse, the risk of harassment will go away. I think it helps, but I think we need to be careful to watch for what's next.
COMMISSIONER BARKER: Thank you so much.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you. Commissioner Feldblum.
COMMISSIONER FELDBLUM: So, thank you, by the way, of highlighting the fact that there is harassment based on age right now and might become worse. I'm conscious of the time and I want to be respectful of people's time, so I'm just going to limit myself to a brief comment, which is to pick up, Ms. Sepler, what you said that you feel the status quo right now is, companies/organizations don't change unless either there's a visionary leader or they get hit with a settlement.
The reason we're calling this a reboot of harassment prevention efforts is, we want that to change. And we want organizations and businesses to feel that there is a cost of not changing, even if they never have a legal case against them. And that is the point of writing out the business case, but it's also the reason about needing of the stakeholders. EEOC is not the best messenger to bring that to companies and organizations. We can be the catalyst, which is what we've done, but this is a sort of peer-to-peer conversation, and that's why I'm so happy that we had so many diverse people and perspectives for this report. Thank you.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you. Commissioner Lipnic.
COMMISSIONER LIPNIC: Thank you Madam Chair. Ms. Sepler and Professor Cortina, one thing that I wanted to ask you to follow up on, is you had mentioned -- and since we talk about the idea of workplace civility training, and you had mentioned that, respect in a workplace is an affirmative responsibility. So, I wonder if you could talk a little bit more about what you do to try to instill that and what reactions you get in any training that you do along those lines.
MS. SEPLER: So, one of the sort of standard ways that we talk about respect in the workplace is to ask people what it is, what it looks like, what people do and say to generate respect, because we know that it's not about posters on the wall that tell you you're respected or the coffee cup that says "respect" or the annual campaign on respect. It's about the small things that people do every day.
And we do -- we make a list, what are people doing and saying? It ranges from the very tiniest little thing like greeting and acknowledging people, to offering them help, to showing an interest and listening to people, and we map that out.
And what I will share with you, is that I have done this particular exercise on -- just in the last year with literally brain surgeons and ditch diggers, flower millers, radio personalities, attorneys, Wall Street traders and school children, and the lists overlap at about 98 percent, and I tell them that. I tell them that we know and we are armed with fairly powerful tools to generate respect in the workplace. And we talk to them about the fact that there is neuroscience that says that when we actually do these things, that we make changes in people's brain, that it actually changes their objective experience of the workplace.
And so, we begin there by simply defining what it looks like and how easy it is to do and reminding people that these create positive brain associations and bring a general sense of happiness to the workplace and that we all want it, and then we move from there. How do you do it? What does it look like? How do you respond to the absence of it, because shunning is just as abusive as harassing someone? And we slowly work through it and we talk about things like implicit bias. We talk about things that are really meaningful to people and open their eyes. And we treat them as though they are individuals of goodwill who want a good workplace. And we get a really positive reaction from that as people understand that they have the capacity to make a difference every day and how people feel around them and that it's not just about what management is doing. So, tactically, that's the way we approach it.
COMMISSIONER LIPNIC: Professor Cortina.
MS. CORTINA: I'll just add that I agree that, you know, it's an emphasis on seemingly small behaviors, you know, behaviors that might seem trivial or unimportant to the business, even to social life on the job, but, you know, on the disrespect side of the continuum, kind of everyday slights and indignities can accumulate and have a real impact on people's work and their lives.
And we know that through research. And getting that message across, some people are resistant to it initially because they are thinking of much more blatant cases of harassment or assault or workplace violence and recognizing, yes, that's a problem, but we need to think about this behavior on the subtler end of the continuum.
And I completely agree that the absence of the disrespect is not the same thing as being respectful, that you need to add the positive to create a truly respectful work environment. And I could say more, but I think I'll just stop there.
COMMISSIONER LIPNIC: Thank you very much.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you. Commissioner Burrows.
COMMISSIONER BURROWS: Terrific. I have just one question and I'm going to direct it, I think, to Ms. Vann. And I heard you, and it will stick with me for a while, I think, say that there's an undeniable business case for dealing with harassment.
How does one present that business case and convince employers who may have a problem of that, as opposed to thinking, well, the problem is that people keep raising it and distracting us from what our regular job is?
MS. VANN: Well, I think a lot of the research that's come out of this effort will help convince employers of the real business case. I mean, knowing that fully 85 percent of -- and that's -- I recognize that that's just in a limited context, sexual harassment context, but 85 percent of people don't ever complain. You have to sit back and think about what those people are going through on the job. Are they being as functional as they can be? Are they being as effective? Are they taking a lot of time off from work because they're physically made ill by these issues that they're having to deal with that they're too afraid to complain about?
So, I think knowing that can and will be a real eye-opener for a lot of organizations who just simply have not thought about it that carefully enough. Again, you know, we, unfortunately, don't have the luxury of being able to sit back and strategize on these issues. A lot of times companies and HR and EEO compliance folks are trying to put out the fires and making sure that they're legally compliant and not violating the law, but I think this will help spur that sort of more strategic discussion about our organizational culture, diversity and inclusion as well. Because clearly when you increase the diversity and inclusion of your organizations, you're going to have much less, I hope, of an opportunity to -- or I shouldn't say "opportunity," but much less of a risk of having to deal with some of the stuff that Mr. Gill talked about he had to deal with in a very homogeneous environment and that sort of thing.
COMMISSIONER BURROWS: Thank you. And I thank all of you for the incredible amount of time that I know this took from all the other things that you do. It's a huge help to us. I think it's going to be a help to the public at large and I am excited for the next phase of this.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you all. Ms Vann, I agree with your comment earlier that most employers really want to do the right thing, they want to prevent harassment in the workplace and I know that the work of this Task Force will be an important step forward in providing some of these specific steps that employers can take. I know you mentioned that often employers may not be aware of the things that they can do that make a difference.
And I was struck, Ms. Sepler, about your observation from your research that has shown that how an employer responds -- or how a supervisor responds to a complaint of harassment is the single biggest indicator about whether an employee may file a complaint later. Can you share more about that research and what you found in terms of what supervisors can do?
MS. SEPLER: I'm happy to do that. There are some very specific things that we heard from those individuals who had opted to bring a charge and those who did not. The individuals who stayed at work for at least a year after their complaint and did not file a charge, described being listened to without interruption. They described getting all the time they needed on the day that they brought the concern forward and their subjective estimate was that over one hour of attention was given to them the day they complained as compared with those who charged who estimated under 25 minutes. They also described being thanked or affirmed for bringing their complaint forward and being told specifically what would happen as a result of making their complaint.
Conversely, the individuals we call the "externals" who went outside to get support, described being debated or argued with about what had happened. And we have sort of the famous lines, sort of the bad HR lines which are, "What was your part in it?" The single, worst question, in my estimate, that somebody can ask. "I've known Fred for 20 years, I can't believe he'd do that to you," or "Why are you only bringing this up now?" Because most often people who are complaining about well-developed harassment, have attendance, attitude or performance problems. And so, they're viewed as having ulterior motives.
They also described being told that they would get in trouble if the complaint was found not to be valid. And they described -- they described being left in some degree of limbo as to what was going to happen next or if anything would happen at all. These are the folks who gave the familiar lament, "I reported it, and nothing happened."
So, what we -- what we tell supervisors is the importance of receiving what we call "the gift," thank you so much, I appreciate your faith in me, we know just what to do with this, we have a process and you're helping the organization by bringing it forward.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you so much. And in just the couple minutes I have left, do any of you have any closing comments that you want to share either about that or other issues?
CHAIR YANG: Well, thank you. Do you have --
(Comment off record.)
CHAIR YANG: Well, thank you all. I really appreciate all the thought and expertise that was brought to this. And at this time, I wanted to give Commissioner Lipnic and Commissioner Feldblum a chance to make some closing remarks. Commissioner Lipnic.
COMMISSIONER LIPNIC: Thank you so much, Madam Chair. Again, thanks to our panelists. And one final point I do want to amplify is that, I have been -- had this lingering concern all along that employers may look at the recommendations of the report and say, well, we do this already, you know, we have a reporting system, we do training, we do investigations if there are complaints, we take action.
And I think that if they have that view, they're missing the import of the report and I hope that everyone here will help us in educating that we should not confuse activity with results.
Overall, you know, I think part of our message is, employers should be astute about their workplaces and their cultures and that they should do all of these things, but we really urge them to take a critical look at their training, their reporting systems and, again, I've said this a number of times today, but the situational awareness about their workplaces. And, in short, they have to own their workplace cultures.
As Commissioner Feldblum has noted a number of times, I again want to reiterate my thanks and appreciation to everyone involved with the Task Force and especially our remarkable staffs. Especially Sharon Masling, Jim Paretti and Donald McIntosh. Again, I add my thanks to Commissioner Feldblum. If you want to have a job done, ask Chai Feldblum to do it.
I also want to make sure that it is well known and a matter of public record that every member of this Task Force volunteered their time. Because they are such experts in their field, they are incredibly busy people. They traveled to Washington or to California for our meetings at their own expense. They did not drink a cup of coffee or eat a meal at anyone's expense but their own. And there was absolutely nothing glamorous about sitting in a windowless conference room for many hours and being a part of this Task Force.
At a time when there is so much cynicism about our public institutions and about the ability of public policy to work, these are people who were willing to contribute and participate in the public policy process for more than a year with the kind of dedication and generosity that should make their fellow citizens proud, and I commend them all for it.
In closing, I want to note a comment from one of our Task Force members who's not here today, and Joe talked about this earlier from Brenda Feis. Brenda remarked that she was struck by how if you had walked into any one of the meetings of the Task Force on any given day and listened to the questions being asked by our members of the witnesses or the subsequent discussion, you would have had no idea who spends their time as a plaintiff's attorney or defense management or who they advocate for. It was that level of collaboration, consideration and thoughtful analysis that characterized every aspect of our Select Task Force work and, again, I am honored to have co-chaired it.
It is my hope that today starts a national effort by employers large and small to reboot harassment prevention. It's my fervent hope that everyone who gets up and goes to work in the great American workplace can simply do so without fear of harassment and simply do their jobs. Thirty years is long enough. Thank you.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you. Commissioner Feldblum.
COMMISSIONER FELDBLUM: Thank you Madam Chair, and I say "ditto" to everything that Commissioner Lipnic just said, including how good it was to work with her and making this happen. Indeed when I read a book, I often turn first to the acknowledgments. It gives me a window into the life course of the book, the people the author talked to, the materials the author read, the people who gave support. I urge you to read the acknowledgments of this report. You will see our work was done with the help of many people. Please also read the appendix where we list the name of every witness. We are in their debt.
I want to thank every current and past staff member of my office and Commissioner Lipnic's office who helped with this effort. Of course I want to do a special shout-out to Sharon Masling from my office, and Jim Paretti and Donald McIntosh from Commissioner Lipnic's office. This work could not have happened without them.
Professor Robert Bies, a professor of management at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, who talked with the Select Task Force, included a slide in his PowerPoint with a quote from James Baldwin. "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."
To me, that quote captures the essence of our work. The problem of harassment often seems intractable, but that is not a reason to turn our faces from it or to keep doing what we have done before. If anything, it should make us redouble our efforts to prevent this scourge in our workplace. And let there be no mistake, harassment is a scourge. No individual should have to come to work fearing that he or she will be humiliated or taunted or physically hurt because of a characteristic protected under our laws.
Leaders can take important steps to create a workplace culture in which harassment is not tolerated. Indeed, I hope employers across the country will adopt our recommendations for ensuring accountability in the workplace, which is the best way for leaders to reinforce their expectations, but ultimately it falls to all of us to do our part in stopping harassment.
I think the quote from James Baldwin resonated with me so much because it reminded me of an admonition that I grew up with, something that Rabbi Hillel, a rabbi who lived 2,000 years ago said. So, here's what he said: "Im ein ani li, mi li?" If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
To me, that means people must be able to come to work in the fullness of their identity and know they can stand up for themselves in a system that will hear them and respect them and help them if they have been harassed. And then Rabbi Hillel said "Uch'she'ani l'atzmi, ma ani?" if I am only for myself, what am I?
We are all bystanders to activities that take place around us, but it's the adjective before the word "bystander" that gives it meaning. We can be passive bystanders, or engaged bystanders. We make that choice. We want to be, we deserve to be, in workplaces where workers have the motivation, the feeling of empowerment, the skills, the sense of safety to stop and prevent any harassment that they see.
And finally, Rabbi Hillel said "V'im lo achshav ey matai?" If not now, when? Exactly. If not now, when? Thank you.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you Commissioner Feldblum. And now I will turn it to Commissioner Barker.
COMMISSIONER BARKER: Well, we've been here for a long time, so I'm not going to add comments because I think that Commissioner Lipnic and Commissioner Feldblum have said it all, not just through the report, but in your closing comments. So, I'll limit my remarks to just say thank you Commissioner Feldblum, Commissioner Lipnic and your staffs who worked so hard on this and all the members of the Task Force. Thank you very much.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you. Commissioner Burrows.
COMMISSIONER BURROWS: I agree. Thank you.
CHAIR YANG: Thank you. And as we wrap up, I want to just share with all of you how committed the EEOC is, and to understanding what truly works to fix some of the problems that the Task Force and others have identified for us. We know this report will put us on an important step forward and the recommendations coming out of the report are very important for all aspects of the Commission's work, not just our outreach and the education we can provide both to youth and employers, but also in thinking about the kinds of relief that we're working to include in our conciliation agreements and in our consent decrees and to better understand what is truly working to bring about lasting change in the workplace.
So, the work that you all have done will be important for our efforts going forward, but we know that we can't do it all ourselves, right? We are only a part of the solution and we will need the work and insights of all of you on a continuing basis.
Commissioner Lipnic described the lack of glamour in serving on our Task Force. And I want to thank you all for doing that. And I know the reason you did it, is because that you all truly care about this issue. You know how important it is to the workplace and how important it is that we fix it. And we are going to need to count on all of you from all your perspectives in helping us develop the solutions going forward. So, I thank you for that effort. I know this report puts us on an important path forward.
And I want to just close with sharing a few logistics for everyone. The Commission will hold this meeting record open for 15 days and we invite members of the public to submit written comments on any issues or matters discussed at this meeting. Those comments may be mailed to the Commission meeting, EEOC Executive Officer at 131 M Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20507, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Commission meeting comments is all one word in the email address.
All comments will be made available to members of the Commission and to Commission staff working on the matters discussed at the meeting. In addition, comments may be disclosed to the public. And by providing comments and response, you are consenting to the use and consideration by the Commission and to the public dissemination of those comments.
Accordingly, please do not include any information in the comments that you would not be made public such as your home address, telephone number, et cetera. Also note that when comments are submitted by email, the sender's email address will automatically appear on the message. And with that, I say, "thank you" and is there a motion to adjourn the meeting?
COMMISSIONER BARKER: So moved.
CHAIR YANG: Is there a second?
COMMISSIONER FELDBLUM: Second.
CHAIR YANG: All in favor?
GROUP RESPONSE: Aye.
CHAIR YANG: Opposed?
CHAIR YANG: Thank you. The meeting is adjourned.
(Whereupon, the meeting was adjourned at 12:36 p.m.)