Healthcare. Restaurants. Retail stores. Whichever business you are in – training your employees in sexual harassment prevention should be at the top your list. Yes, it’s a good business practice. But, more importantly, it can help avoid incidents of sexual harassment at work. And, if your business gets caught in a harassment claim – it could help avoid liability.
State and federal laws consider Sexual harassment prevention training as a ‘good-faith effort’ by an employer to prevent harassment at work. Moreover, the EEOC and the courts consider training as a part of an employer’s duty to follow laws that prohibit harassment in the workplace.
More than 15 states, including California, New York and Connecticut, have strict anti-sexual harassment laws. Under these laws, employers have the responsibility to provide a workplace free of harassment.
This includes having proper policies and procedures that
- Discourage harassment
- Allow victims to report abuse
- Prevent retaliation by abusers
- Ensure swift resolution of complaints
- Promote a harassment-free work culture
Besides having a strict policy against harassment; employers must train their workers for sexual harassment prevention.
The law requires that businesses train their employees to deter sexual harassment at work. The training should discourage employees from unwelcome activities, and enforce a sense of security among your employees.
The training should be given to all employees, including workers and supervisors.
Sexual Harassment Prevention Training
Here are the four elements to consider when deciding upon which program to use for training your employees.
- The business you are in – healthcare, retail, or hospitality.
- Demographics of your workforce – Age, ethnicity, gender, marital status, and race.
- How exposed your employees are to harassment.
- The federal, state and local anti-harassment laws.
Answering these four questions won’t just help design your training program, but it would also help design a safe workplace. Returning to your training program, here are the topics that you should include in your training.
What should be included in harassment training?
Remember, employee training is meant not just for potential victims of sexual harassment but also for the harasser. The training should send a clear message condemning sexual harassment, and emphasize your commitment to providing a safe workplace to all employees.
Here are the topics that your employee training should cover
- Your policy against harassment
- What is unwelcome conduct
- Hostile work environment, quid pro quo, and bullying
- How to deal with harassment
- Bystander Intervention
- Illegal retaliation
- How to file complaints
- Company procedures for investigation and resolution
- Federal, state, and local anti-harassment laws
- Protections offered by the law for victims of harassment
The training should also include a list of resources for sexual harassment victims, including addresses, helpline numbers and websites, which victims can use.
Along with the topics above, supervisor training should also include topics, such as how to create a harassment-free workplace, and how supervisors should deal with incidents of sexual harassment. Here’s what your training should include:
- A clear message that sexual harassment will not be tolerated in your organization, and it’s the supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that.
- How supervisors should react, if they witness harassment
- How to handle complaints
- What a supervisor should do, if he or she is accused of harassment
- How to investigate, and resolve complaints
Choose interactive training programs
Your training program should include interactive activities. Such a training would make it easy for employees to understand –
- Which behaviors are considered as harassment
- How to react under uncomfortable situations
- How to intervene if you witness harassment
- How supervisors should handle a compliant
- How supervisors can prevent harassment from happening
Ensure that the training content is relevant to your business. The training should be easy to understand. A training designed for office workers will just not work, if yours is a restaurant.
An office setting puts emphasis upon employees’ interaction with other employees, while a restaurant setting demands a training that covers employees’ interaction with customers and vendors as well.
Similarly, a recorded webinar won’t work, if you have hundreds of employees and an online harassment training would work better.
State and Local Laws
Likewise, the sexual harassment laws differ with state. Ensure that the training program meets your state’s standards for training, and covers state and local anti-harassment laws.
Duration of the training program
Equally important is the duration of the training program. Some states have strict standards for this. The length of the training program should meet the state standards.
For example, in California, employee training can be 1-hour long, but the supervisor training has to be 2-hours in length. Similarly, in Connecticut, only 2-hour long training programs are acceptable.
Updated training material
The last point for you to check is how updated the training material is. The training material should match the most-recent updates to the law and court orders.
Sexual harassment training is now becoming a compulsion across US. So be prepared for it. Sexual harassment lawsuits can be really costly. There are severe penalties for failing to address sexual harassment at work, and in some cases, possible jail time.
But, if you can prove that you trained your employees, and that you have a system in place for preventing harassment and addressing complaints, it could help avoid liability.
If you have any queries about sexual harassment training – whether it’s your current training program, or if you’re designing a new, interactive training – and if you need any help, please leave comments in the comment section below.
You can also drop an email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org; we’ll be happy to help you.