Another nail in the coffin of EEOC guidelines

Last fall, the EEOC proposed new guidelines on racial, ethnic, gender, religious, and other harassment. Based on existing laws and court decisions, these guidelines would have helped employers avoid harassment problems in the workplace.

But, alas!, the religious right got wind of them. And one person's religious harassment is another person's religious expression -- at least to these folks. They were fearful that the guidelines would encourage religion-free workplaces.

After mock hearings, the Senate passed a resolution condemning the guidelines in June. But that apparently wasn't enough. On Friday, July 22, the Senate adopted an amendment to a fiscal 1995 appropriations bill which (1) orders the EEOC to drop religion from the proposed guidelines and (2) requires that any new guidelines on religious harassment ensure that symbols and expressions of religious belief are not restricted and cannot be used to prove harassment.

The bill will now go to a House-Senate conference committee. The House version of the same bill prohibits the EEOC from spending any money to enforce the proposed guidelines.

Sen. Howell Heflin (D-Ala) boasted that the rider is "a step that ought to put the nail in the coffin of these proposed guidelines."

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