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New DOJ Focus on Harassment by State and Local Governments

On February 28, 2018, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced a new initiative to combat sexual harassment in the public sector. The initiative is specifically focused on State and local government employers.  The initiative will include an increase in enforcement actions, such as lawsuits against public sector employers, with a focus on sexual harassment.  For example, the DOJ announced a new lawsuit it is filing against the City of Houston Fire Department alleging that it discriminated against two female firefighters on the basis of sex in violation of Title VII when it allowed them to be subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace.

The DOJ will also conduct outreach to governmental employers focusing on five key areas: (1) creating trusted and safe avenues for employees to report sexual harassment; (2) ensuring management support for anti-discrimination policies and practices; (3) implementing accountability measures to ensure the timely and effective resolution of sexual harassment complaints; (4) adopting comprehensive anti-sexual harassment policies and procedures that include regular, tailored, and interactive training for employees; and (5) providing safeguards against retaliation for persons who report sexual harassment and for employees who support them.

This is the DOJ’s second initiative against sexual harassment implemented within the last six months.  In October 2017, the DOJ launched its first initiative against sexual harassment in connection with housing and the DOJ recovered more than $1 million in damages in connection with that initiative within its first three months. 

The DOJ’s initiative should dispel any remaining doubts about the need to take thorough measures to prevent and correct harassment in the workplace.  These measures should include a strong policy prohibiting harassment, retaliation, and other forms of impermissible conduct, as well as professional anti-harassment training for all supervisors and managers. In 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a report focusing on the need for better harassment prevention training, noting in particular that traditional training videos appeared to be less effective than specialized training.

If you have any questions about this or any other labor/employment issue, please feel free to reach out to Brett J. Schneider ( or Michael S. Kantor ( at (954) 763-4242.

Categories: Labor and EmploymentCommunity Outreach
Tags: Fort Lauderdale Labor Law Attorneys