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Training for Harassment in the Workplace

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It's not just human resources best practices that suggest that employers provide training for harassment in the workplace. Federal and state government agencies also recommend that employers take necessary precautions to ensure their employees can enjoy a safe working environment, free from discrimination and unlawful harassment. When left unchecked, workplace harassment can create poor job satisfaction, turnover and lack of productivity. Therefore, training to prevent harassment is a step in the right direction to maintaining a productive workforce.

Federal Law

Technical guidance provided to employers by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission strongly recommends that companies develop a proactive approach to preventing workplace harassment and steps to resolve harassment complaints. The EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964, which prohibits discrimination and harassment in the work environment. Title VII holds employers responsible for suppressing the root causes of discrimination and harassment.

State Law

The EEOC doesn't mandate workplace harassment prevention training; however, it strongly recommends that employers provide such training as a proactive measure to reinforce the company's commitment to a safe working environment. Many state laws require workplace harassment training. For example, in California, companies that employ at least 50 workers must provide two hours of sexual harassment training, including training on both federal and state laws. The state of Vermont's Fair Employment Practices Act strongly recommends that employers provide sexual harassment training to all employees within their first year of employment and offer more specific training to supervisory-level employees.

Staff Orientation

Many employers conduct new-employee orientation, which includes cursory training on harassment. Training for non-supervisory staff typically includes topics such as how to recognize harassment, how to respond to it, and the steps for reporting incidents involving harassment by co-workers or supervisory staff. If you're in a position to develop harassment prevention training for your staff, refer to the EEOC's guidelines to construct employee training that addresses preventative measures related to workplace harassment.

Supervisory Responsibility

If you're in a supervisory role and required to complete mandatory harassment training, take training and your supervisory responsibilities seriously. It's for the benefit of employees in your department and for the organization's success. If you intend to have a career with the organization, you must fulfill your duty to support the organizational goals, which in this case, include preventing sexual harassment. You are a member of the company's leadership and are, therefore, held to a higher standard regarding working conditions and employee safety. In addition, the company could incur liability for supervisors' actions. If it's discovered that you aren't on board with the company's goals related to fair employment and anti-harassment initiatives, it could seriously affect your career.