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Is Sexual Harassment Training Enough?
Man harrasing a woman at work
September 15, 2020

That depends on what your goal is! As you know, October 1, 2020 marks the date Connecticut employers must provide sexual harassment prevention training for all current employees.

Tell me more…

In the 2019 Legislative session, the CT General Assembly passed  Public Acts 19-16 and 19-93 which constitutes the “Times Up Act”. It was then signed by Governor Lamont and requires that:

  • By October 1, 2020 all existing employees receive 2 hours of Sexual Harassment training. (Extended to January 1, 2021)
  • Within 6 months of all their start dates, new hires receive the same 2 hour Sexual Harassment training.

Need to get caught up? Check out this blog for the full scoop. Where you are in relationship to the State of Connecticut’s guidelines doesn’t matter. Consider this as you look at creating real behavioral change:

  • If your goal is to simply meet the State of Connecticut requirement that every CT employer with 3 or more employees must be trained in Sexual Harassment prevention, then the answer is Yes- that’s enough.  
  • On the flip side, if your goal is to create a different work environment in which all employees are required to be aware of and eliminate any behaviors and sexual innuendos that result in an unsafe environment for all employees, the answer is No- the training is just the beginning! 

So, now what?

While the training that is available through the state of CT may provide awareness as to what constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace, it does not provide employees with the tools and resources for them to  integrate this knowledge back at work.  This training often focuses on avoiding legal liability, not on prevention.  While training is an essential component of an anti-harassment effort, it is not enough. The messages and concepts of the training must be intentionally integrated into the workplace.  They need to become woven into the fabric of an organization.

Workplace Sexual Harassment Statistics**

  • 8 in 10 Americans think that sexual harassment happens in most workplaces. But only then 1 in 10 believe it’s happening in their own office.
  • Approximately 90% of harassment victims do not file a claim.
  • More than half of women have experienced sexual advances. Of those, 1 in 3 said it involved a man from work; 1 in 4 said it involved a superior.
  • More than 80% of companies have made no effort to discuss appropriate conduct, hold training or change policy in the wake of #MeToo and #TimesUp.

Cost to Companies

The financial impact to companies for neglecting this effort is staggering.  While our courts are filled with Sexual Harassment cases still to be tried, in 2016 alone, over $46 million in direct settlements were levied against companies. *  In addition, the performance of a company can be significantly impacted in the following ways when sexual harassment is not addressed:

  • Low employee engagement
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Higher employee turnover
  • Lower productivity
  • Poor public image 

Your Company Culture 

In a recent EEOC survey, the conclusion was made that workforce culture has the most significant impact on harassment-whether letting it flourish or preventing it.  Some organizations may fall into the trap of asserting that during this time of COVID-19, harassment has decreased with remote work. What has increased is the utilization of instant messaging platforms and make no mistake, harassment continues to occur. So, what else can a company do in support of the training to ensure a change in culture?

Workplace Sexual Harassment Prevention 

  • Clarify the workplace and conduct expectations with a clear and thorough anti-harassment policy. 
  • Make sure senior leaders are both communicating their strong support for a harassment-free workplace and setting a good example.
  • Reduce risk by taking precautions;  draw up a consensual relationship agreement and limit alcohol at office parties.
  • Educate your staff to be more aware of inappropriate behavior, and better equipped to detect and prevent incidents. 
  • Try to avoid emphasizing liability during sexual harassment training. The legal burden is not the point.
  • Discourage bad behavior. A policy only goes so far if you’re not enforcing it. No more overlooking bad behavior and no more “letting it slide”.
  • Monitor the workplace and be involved. Know the warning signs of bad behavior and don’t be afraid to ask if things are ok.
  • Offer an internal complaint system (preferably with the option to remain anonymous). Then, teach people how to use it.
  • Support victims and corroborators. Forbid retaliation and do what you can to provide safety and support for victims and witnesses.
  • Resolve incidents. Acknowledge complaints, respond carefully, investigate quickly and discipline accordingly.

While not all of these actions are necessary, decide which will have the greatest impact on your organization’s ability to sustain a harassment-free environment and commit to these. Working with an experienced consultant may help you determine your best strategy in remaining harassment free.

In closing… 

There are options for you in identifying whether you use the state mandated training program or others available through consultants and legal partners. KardasLarson has designed a  program that focuses on harassment in the workplace and it’s available both onsite and virtually. Our experienced facilitators can help your organization navigate these waters. Providing a sound program will help you to increase employee engagement and create a culture where engagement and productivity can flourish!

 

* EEOC research, 2017
**NBC Survey, 2017

Michael Wilson

Michael Wilson

Author

Michael Wilson works with small businesses to build and protect their brands online. He is an IT Generalist whose primary services include: Web Design & Development, Cybersecurity Consulting & Training, and Social Media Marketing. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Multimedia Web Design & Development from the University of Hartford.

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