EEOC Report: Avoid “One Size Fits All” Training Courses

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.

EEOC’s Report

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.


It’s Tax Season – Be on Guard for Fraudulent Requests for Employee Information

w-2A brief reminder to HR Professionals and others with access to sensitive employee information – be on guard for fraudulent requests, especially during tax season. As security journalist Brian Krebs points out in a recent post, Phishers Spoof CEO, Request W2 Forms, W-2 information is especially prized by scam artists because it contains virtually all of the data one would need to fraudulently file someone’s taxes and request a large refund in their name.


The Key to Goal Achievement – the Gain Must Outweigh the Pain

woman-865021Happy New Year everyone!

The beginning of a new year is a great time to set goals. A recent post from Quartz addresses the price of achievement. We’ve all heard “No pain, no gain”. Taking it a step further, to achieve a goal, the gain for you must outweigh the required pain and sacrifice. (This reminded me of a dialog in The Avengers between Nick Fury and Thor) –

Nick Fury: “A lot of guys think that. Until the pain starts.”
Thor: “What are you asking me to do?”
Nick Fury: “I’m asking, what are you prepared to do?”

What are we prepared to do to reach our goals? What pain are we willing to endure, what sacrifices are we willing to make? Will it be enough? Success depends on finding ways to tolerate (or better yet, actually enjoy) the actions necessary to achieve our goals. Examples from the post: “People who enjoy the struggles of a gym are the ones who get in good shape. People who enjoy long workweeks and the politics of the corporate ladder are the ones who move up it. People who enjoy the stresses and uncertainty of the starving artist lifestyle are ultimately the ones who live it and make it.”

To increase your odds of success, (a) select goals that you are willing to sacrifice enough for, and (b) find ways to make the pain and sacrifice endurable, or even enjoyable. The key to goal achievement – the gain must outweigh the pain.


The Importance of a Clear Business Strategy

Right direction compass for CoreHR TeamDeveloping a clear business strategy is a must for success, and much easier said than done. Check your current organizational strategy against these insights provided by a former Netflix employee. See the full article at “How to Copy Netflix”.

  • Strategy is, by definition, “a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time.” Always make sure you know where you’re going.
  • Being clear guides tactical execution and informs what you should and should not do.
  • The Netflix brand position was, “The best way to rent DVDs.” This provided no real foundation to generate future messaging and not a clear understanding of what we needed to be for the consumer in order for them to consider our offer.
  • The brand position became, “Movie enjoyment made easy.” From that point on, everything had to play off that position.
  • A well-researched brand position provides strategic guidance for everything the company does.
  • It is always a good idea to gut-check decisions along the way. Even if it comes at a short term-pain, reversing a decision to align to the long-term strategy for the bigger payoff is the right thing to do.
  • Strategic thinking as applied to company culture provides clarity for everything from hiring to policy development and can lead to amazing gains.
  • A clear strategy for your offering allows for clear consumer understanding and adoption. It can also help guide pricing structure, product/feature development, and more.