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What is harassment?
Harassment includes any behavior involving unwanted sexual advances, bullying, violence, or threats of violence, among other things. This can include the sharing of unwanted sexual pictures or unwanted physical contact. It may also include sexual, racist, or violent jokes, a pattern of unwanted sexual compliments, or verbal threats of violence.
Any situation where a hostile working environment has been created can be considered harassment. This includes behavior that is demeaning, discriminatory, or threatening to the point that it causes significant disruption to coworkers and negatively impacts their personal well-being and professional performance.
What is anti-harassment training?
Most courses are general and cover the basics of harassment training in the workplace. These topics include issues such as respect for others, healthy relationships, abuse prevention, basic rights, cultural and religious sensitivity, and sexual orientation. Some programs focus solely on one kind of harassment, whereas others cover multiple types of harassment. A good example of this would be a sexual harassment training course for employees, due to this type of harassment being one of the most common within the workplace.
Harassment prevention training teaches employees to identify harassing, hostile behavior in themselves and others. It was created to help prevent sexual harassment at work by creating an inclusive culture where everyone feels safe and respected. Some harassment training covers specific issues such as bias elimination or creating an inclusive environment for people of all genders, backgrounds, and beliefs. Other training focuses on very specific behaviors that are not allowed in the workplace.
Harassment prevention focuses on preventing incidents from happening at all. It doesn’t just protect employees but also companies’ reputations.
Why is training important?
Conducting harassment training is important because it will help employees understand how their actions affect others and can lead to changes in attitude. Training can be an effective way for employers to ensure their vulnerable workers feel safe at work, and it can help employees take proactive steps toward building a healthy office culture.
Employees who recognize that harassing others will cause harm to themselves and others will be less likely to engage in such behaviors. Harassment has been shown to reduce employee productivity, impact profits, and, more importantly, have a dramatic impact on employee well-being. In addition, harassment can lead employees to ignore their duties, become absent from work, or leave their positions entirely.
Employees who undergo harassment training learn how they can protect themselves from unwanted advances by others. It provides a framework for how to react when they are the victim of harassment, or if they witness harassment directed toward another employee.
Why do most harassment prevention programs fail?
Some employers train their employees only for the sake of satisfying auditors. This type of training fulfills the letter of the law but otherwise fails to set into motion any real change or prevention of harassment.
While this sort of training may meet the minimum requirements of the law, it does little to inspire trust in the employer and tends to be ignored by employees. To teach employees about harassment, they must first understand that it is a topic taken very seriously by the employer. The training must provide a sufficient deterrent to potential harassers, and knowing the employer stands squarely behind the training is an important fist step. In fact, such superficial training can have a negative impact on an organization’s culture.
Rather than conducting a once-annual marathon session, we recommend employers utilize a training aid that regularly engages employees in small doses. Services such as WiseDaily break down training into small sessions that employees can access from their computer or mobile phone at a time that works with their unique daily schedule.
An overview of legal ramifications
In addition to being an important part of company culture, harassment prevention training may also provide a level of legal protection in cases of employee lawsuits.
Federal law doesn’t require companies to offer sexual harassment prevention training, but state-specific harassment training requirements may. Additionally, precedents set by previous court rulings suggest employers may face liability if they fail to conduct training.
While federal law is still evolving where anti-harassment training is concerned, some states already require specific training for certain companies depending upon the number of employees they employ. For example, in Connecticut, there are specific regulations regarding employee training if an employer has 50 or more employees. Both the state of California and New York City also enforce certain levels of harassment prevention training for businesses operating within their boundaries.
What should be included in harassment training?
Anti-harassment training should focus primarily on the desired cultural baseline that is desired and expected among employees. The training should focus on both the hard policies against harassment, as well as the collective responsibility and benefits of working within a harassment-free culture.
Establishing a true sense of security to both be free of and speak out about harassment is a critical element of any anti-harassment training. As employees understand and internalize the company’s commitment to providing a safe workplace to all employees, they will help uphold and self-regulate the level of acceptance and expected security.
Any anti-harassment training implemented within your company should include:
- A clear definition of harassment as it relates to gender, sexuality, religion, race, and ethnic culture
- An overview of the federal and local laws relevant to harassment
- A framework to help employees identify harassment
- A simple set of steps employees can take to respond to harassment
- Real-world examples of harassment scenarios and effective responses to those scenarios. Additional examples of language that can be used to promote an inclusive non-threatening culture are helpful in preventing harassment incidents.
- An accessible and safe means to report harassment that does not depend on supervisor approval
- A clear reinforcement of the protections offered by the company in the event harassment does occur
Well-crafted harassment prevention training always strongly encourages employees to report incidents. As you educate employees on how and when to file complaints, their behavior will encourage other victims of harassment to do the same and will allow leadership to address harassment more effectively.
What does anti-harassment training typically exclude?
Anti-harassment trainings usually cover several different topics but aren’t intended to be a one-stop solution for everything. For example, training doesn’t usually address specific employee needs; instead, it focuses primarily on helping companies develop effective workplace practices. Though some programs do offer consultation services for employers who want to create their own internal policies, these aren’t part of most training packages.
Training may or may not meet certification requirements for local laws. It falls to the employer, not the training program, to ensure these requirements are met and to inquire about any additional training or certifications required.
It is also critical that employers understand that simply providing harassment prevention training does not satisfy their obligation to provide a safe and friendly work environment. In other words, an employer might be liable for sexual harassment committed by its employee even if the employer has provided ample anti-sexual harassment training, particularly where a clear culture of harassment has been instilled or tolerated regardless of training programs.
What are the expected costs of anti-harassment training?
Anti-harassment training services are typically charged per employee, although some solutions, such as WiseDaily, also offer flat-rate company-wide subscriptions.
Online courses typically require a license per employee and start out at between $10-$39 per person, but they can quickly rise into the hundreds of dollars if you buy additional training material.
Training courses that offer packages of multiple lessons, online webinars, or face-to-face workshops usually charge between $90-$225 for each participant. With additional costs possible as well as some discounts offered for larger companies.
Here are some additional resources for anti-harassment training and healthy workplace culture that we recommend checking out: