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Avoid Sexual Harassment Through Training

by The Human Equation, Inc. on 10/1/2010
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Over the last 10 years, incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace have dramatically increased. Statistics from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) indicate that the number of sexual harassment complaints received has risen by 30%. In addition, annual settlements negotiated in sexual harassment cases have grown to over $50 million. And that does not take into account the $6.7 million per year, or $282 per employee, stemming from declines in productivity and morale and increases in medical claims, turnover, and absenteeism.

The escalating number of sexual harassment incidents along with the related financial costs leads to the question, "What can I, the employer, do about it?" In addition to such measures as establishing and distributing a zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy, providing multiple complaint filing options, and thoroughly investigating all allegations, one of the most effective means of decreasing claims of sexual harassment is by instituting training programs on sexual harassment prevention.

With proper sexual harassment prevention training, workers are more capable of recognizing harassment in their workplace. After all, what may appear to be a minor occurrence can become a serious liability if workers are not trained to identify and cope with the situation.

Sexual harassment prevention training should include such general topics as a definition and description of sexual harassment, the company's reporting process, and ways in which to express concerns and complaints. Specific topics to include consist of:

  • the organization's policy regarding harassment;
  • the impact of harassment on the victims and the workplace;
  • gender and cultural differences in distinguishing harassment; and
  • managers' and supervisors' responsibilities to prevent incidents and investigate and resolve sexual harassment complaints.

Additionally, at the conclusion of each training session, employees need to sign affidavits attesting to having undergone sexual harassment training. This allows employers to prove that the proper steps were taken to educate staff. It also helps the employer defend itself before the EEOC or in court cases involving sexual harassment.

This training should be mandatory for all employees and managers and it needs to take place during new hire orientation and on an annual basis for every employee. Regardless of whether training takes place with a live instructor or online, only qualified professionals ought to develop and/or perform sexual harassment training. These professionals should cite specific examples of sexual harassment, including real-life circumstances and their implications.

Sexual harassment prevention training is a proactive approach to tackling this avoidable problem. If conducted properly, this training can improve the awareness, perceptions, and knowledge of sexual harassment, thereby reducing incidents of the behaviors that are related to sexual harassment. It can also prevent lawsuits, protect bottom lines, and preserve reputations.

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