Last week the EEOC confirmed what CoreHR Team has been saying for a long time … Using off the shelf training programs does NOT reduce the likelihood of getting sued for harassment. Want to make a real impact? Use training developed specifically for your organization.
A recent report published by the EEOC (the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) came to a simple yet disturbing conclusion – “too many people in too many workplaces find themselves in unacceptably harassing situations when they are simply trying to do their jobs.”
Thirty years ago the U.S. Supreme Court recognized claims for sexual harassment as a form of discrimination based on sex under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Struck by how many harassment cases they still deal with every year (90,000 in 2015), the EEOC commissioners assembled a task force that spent 18 months investigating what is going wrong, and what can be done about it. The result is an 88-page status update entitled “Report of the Co-Chairs of the EEOC Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace.” The report includes actions that the EEOC can take to help prevent harassment, as well as several conclusions about the importance of workforce training, and how it should be conducted to be truly effective.
Sexual Harassment Training Success Factors
- First and foremost, harassment training must focus on actual prevention, not just taking a check-the-box approach to avoid legal liability. While legally required in many states (see California-specific requirements below), simply going through the motions of conducting required training will do little to change workplace attitudes and actions, and is not likely to reduce real risks of sexual harassment claims against the employer.
- Second, speaking to the content and format of the training, “one size does not fit all: Training is most effective when tailored to the specific workforce and workplace, and to different cohorts of employees.” As with any training, the more the material covered and discussions held speak to actual situations and scenarios that employees are likely to encounter in their own working environment, the more memorable, actionable, and ultimately useful the training will be.
- Third, getting buy-in and support from people managers is key. The report concluded that when trained correctly, middle-managers and first-line supervisors can be an employer’s most valuable resource in preventing and stopping harassment.
- And finally, the qualifications and experience of those leading the training is vital to its success. Training should be conducted by qualified, live, and interactive trainers. It is important for trainers to provide examples of unacceptable conduct, and then be able to answer questions. The training must also teach supervisors and managers how to respond to a report or observance of harassment. These can be difficult situations and a live trainer is best suited to work through questions with the participants.
Other Report Findings
Not surprisingly, the report found that workplace harassment too often goes unreported. Roughly three out of four individuals who experienced harassment never talked to a supervisor, manager, or union representative about the harassing conduct. The reasons include fear of disbelief of their claim, inaction, blame, or social or professional retaliation.
There is a compelling business case for stopping and preventing harassment. Last year, the EEOC alone recovered $164.5 million for workers alleging harassment. In addition to mental and physical harm inflicted on the victim, harassment affects all workers and the organization through decreased productivity, increased turnover, and reputational harm.
Leadership and accountability are critical. Effective harassment prevention must involve the highest level of management within the organization. Systems must be in place to ensure that all who engage in harassment are held responsible in a meaningful, appropriate, and proportional manner.
Specific Training Requirements for California Employers
As of April 1, 2016, all California employers now have an “affirmative duty” to prevent harassment in the workplace. Implementation of preventative training for employees is a critical step in meeting this new obligation for any size employer. In addition, organizations with 50 or more employees (regardless of their location, and including seasonal, part-time and/or full-time, and contractors) are legally obligated to :
- Provide 2 hours of interactive sexual harassment and discrimination training for all managers/supervisors every two years
- Train all new managers/supervisors within 6 months of promotion or hire
- Have a qualified expert conduct the training (defined as a lawyer or human resources professional)
- Include all of the required elements:
- Review of your organization’s written sexual harassment policy
- Specifics of your organization’s complaint reporting procedures (must include reference to a governmental agency) *
- Segment on abusive conduct/bullying
- Limited confidentiality of the complaint process
- Cover the steps necessary to take appropriate remedial measures to correct harassing behavior *
- Instruct supervisors to report any complaints of misconduct to a designated company representative, such as a human resources manager *
* New as of April 1, 2016
WARNING: Effective April 1, 2016, web-based training (e.g., E-learning or webinar courses) must now include:
- A link or directions on how to contact a qualified trainer who shall be available to answer questions and to provide guidance and assistance about the training within a reasonable period of time, not to exceed two business days. The trainer must maintain all written questions received, and all written responses or guidance provided, for a period of two years after the date of the response.
- Webinar training must provide supervisors with the opportunity to ask questions, to have them answered and otherwise seek guidance or assistance from a qualified trainer.
- For a period of two years after the date of the webinar, the employer must maintain a copy of the webinar, all written materials used by the trainer and all written questions submitted during the webinar, and document all written responses or guidance the trainer provided during the webinar.
- All web-based training must include a learning activity geared towards ensuring interactive participation as well as the ability to apply what is learned to the supervisor’s work environment (i.e., likely cannot include “generic” scenarios but, rather, the content must relate to your organization’s specific working environment).
CoreHR Team Training
In line with the EEOC Task Force recommendations and California requirements, CoreHR Team courses for both employees (30 minutes) and managers/supervisors (2 hours) are:
- Developed by experts and presented on-site by an employment attorney who has defended multiple employers in sexual harassment lawsuits, and a certified HR expert who has personally conducted sexual harassment investigations
- Truly interactive, allowing attendees to ask questions and discuss scenarios with their fellow employees and our experienced trainers
- Customized to each employer’s specific work environment and company culture. The training includes a review of the organization’s specific sexual harassment policy and procedure for reporting complaints
CoreHR training programs also include:
- Pre-training discussions with your HR department and/or owners and management to identify and develop scenarios and hypotheticals specific to your organization and industry
- A review of your current written anti-harassment policy to ensure compliance with Gov’t Code section 12940 (including the 4/1/16 FEHA amendment)
Contact CoreHR Team if you have questions about sexual harassment in the workplace, or to arrange a live training for your team.