Sexual Harassment Prevention Training: Why Is It Important?

Sexual harassment prevention training is important to construct a safe workplace culture. However, many companies have seen an increase in workplace harassment complaints and not all of them offer essential training. The main reason why sexual harassment prevention training is important is because it can create safer workplaces for everyone. By educating employees, the training helps them understand what sexual harassment is and makes them aware of it if it is taking place. The small investment made by businesses to provide the training is well worth the payoff for their employees.

Do Many Companies Provide Harassment Prevention Training?

XpertHR surveyed more than 500 Human Resources (HR) professionals about sexual harassment prevention training and focused on workplace policies. Ninety-two percent responded that their companies had formal sexual harassment policies in place. However, only 37 percent stated that their policies would be updated the following year. Out of those surveyed, 74 percent stated that their companies did conduct sexual harassment prevention training.

How Should Company Leadership Members be Involved?

Aside from establishing the sexual harassment policies and training, company leadership members need to set good examples and show their employees
that they are all on the same page. With the appropriate training, managers can learn how to recognize acts of sexual harassment and the proper ways to respond. Conducting standardized training for employees and their supervisors can help ensure that all workers are clear on the policies. Furthermore, supervisors are often the first to hear of harassment complaints, and they are in positions to influence others.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) strongly advocates for sexual harassment prevention training and encourages businesses to initiate and support company-wide efforts. A committed, engaged company leadership is essential. The first step is to create clearly defined policies and to make them accessible to every employee. The training should include ways to prevent and safely report sexual harassment; there are many training companies and online resources that can help companies with this. If the company is in a state that has mandated training, using one of these can help with compliance.

What Makes a Successful Sexual Harassment Prevention Policy?

A comprehensive workplace sexual harassment prevention policy must be clear with a zero-tolerance statement at the beginning. It should also be posted where every employee can access it easily, and it should also be updated at least once a year. The policy should read that it applies to every single employee along with any other relevant parties, such as clients and job applicants. Another component of successful sexual harassment policies is when they are tailored to specific companies. For example, a business that has a large percentage of salespeople might have different requirements than a company that has all its workers in an office.

There also needs to be clear descriptions of all the prohibited actions. Employees can be encouraged to report any unwelcome behaviors that may be in violation of the policy. The system for how alleged victims can report their complaints should also be described, such as reporting to a supervisor or the HR department.

The policy can also describe how the employer is required to respond, usually with an impartial, thorough investigation. Employees should also know that anyone who reports sexual harassment will have their identities kept confidential. Also, there should be a statement ensuring employees that retaliation by the employer for reporting harassment or taking part in an investigation is illegal.

How Does Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Work?

This training will help all employees understand the policy and also lets them know that the company leadership has made it a priority. Again, some state and local jurisdictions have laws that apply to the training, so these will apply to content, frequency, and format in some cases. This must meet the state model policy’s minimum standards, and copies have to be given to every employee. The training must also meet state-established minimum standards. Some industries mandate their own training as well.

Sexual harassment prevention training can include different formats, and some experts believe that interactive sessions and in-person seminars are the most effective. This can be combined with virtual meetings and online training. Since many people do not know about all of the forms of sexual harassment, it is wise to show examples of different types. Employees should also be taught about applicable state, federal, local, and industry workplace harassment laws. Workers should also be informed of their rights, as well as all the channels that they can use to file complaints. The investigation process should also be explained, as well as the no-retaliation law. Another important topic is bystander intervention. This is when another employee might witness a colleague being sexually harassed, and this should also be reported through the proper channels.

The company’s anti-harassment policy should be reviewed in detail and reinforced during the training. It is also best to conduct the training on a regular basis since companies often have updates, policy changes, and new employees. Additionally, training should be mandatory for every single employee, including delivery drivers, accountants, and chief executive officers.

What Benefits Does Training Provide?

A sexual harassment prevention training program can make employees feel better about their workplace and can convey that their company’s leadership truly cares about them. If it is done the right way, employees can feel more like they are working together as a team, trying to achieve a common goal. An increased feeling of safety at work can contribute to better employee confidence, improved relationships, and better productivity in the long run.

The lessons learned from training can extend outside of the workplace as well. Employees who better understand the forms of sexual harassment and how it impacts other people can avoid these behaviors. Preventing workplace harassment should be a key objective for every company. Not doing so is bad for business and the employees. Companies that neglect to do this could find themselves facing lawsuits if they do not provide policies, training, and follow-through on any complaints that are made.

Even though many companies are being proactive about sexual harassment prevention training, countless employees are still being harassed. If one is experiencing sexual harassment at work, they should seek legal representation.

Mr. Gold is the principal shareholder of the Pennsylvania & New Jersey employment law firm of Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. in Philadelphia, which has been recognized by the Martindale-Hubbell Bar Register as a preeminent law firm in the field of employment law and civil rights litigation. His practice, as well as that of the law firm, is exclusively concentrated in the representation of both employees and employers in all aspects of employment related litigation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including claims under federal and state anti-discrimination laws and federal civil rights laws.

Copyright Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C.

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws they may affect a case. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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