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Is it time to implement sexual harassment training?

Sexual harassment has been a part of the national conversation for months now. As an employer, you’ve probably given quite a bit of thought as to how you can prevent sexual harassment in your workplace.

If you do not already have a training program in place, it may be time to implement one. However, that training program should offer support and advice to your employees who may have or may someday experience harassment.

Training fails when focused too much on liability

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found in a 2016 report that sexual harassment trainings have failed as a prevention tool because they are “too focused on simply avoiding liability.” The first trainings on sexual harassment that came about in the 1980s were more victim-focused and included advice for someone who was suffering harassment, but they eventually evolved to be more of a legal protection for companies.

While that protection is certainly important from a business perspective, the recent wave of sexual harassment claims and the fallout for the men accused shows that many of the training programs in place are insufficient and should renew their focus on assisting victims and curbing behavior.

Types of training

What content would stop employees from harassing their coworkers is not easy to determine, and there is little research about what would be most persuasive. However, effective sexual harassment training can be impactful.

If you are considering a training program for your company, it’s worth looking at the content of the training and what it provides to employees – both accusers and accused.

When it comes to format, live sessions tend to be more engaging than a computer program with a quiz at the end, according to professionals. If you need help crafting a plan or don't know where to start, you can hire a human resources professional for the business or an employment attorney who works with employees and employers.

Sometimes training designed for accused harassers can also be effective. This training could be a requirement for an employee whose conduct is not an offense so egregious it warrants termination, but needs to be address to avoid further workplace problems. In this case, the content can be tailored toward the employee’s specific behavior. A trainer could discuss intent vs. impact with the accused and how that behavior can be prevented in the future.

However you decide to design a training program, it is important to consider how sexual harassment affects your employees and to create something that will benefit them, giving them the confidence they need to report issues. Ultimately, this will protect the business interests by creating a positive workplace environment. 

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