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  • Is Your Sexual Harassment Training Working?

    The majority of companies today provide some form of sexual harassment training for their employees. This training is intended to help eliminate, or at least reduce, workplace sexual harassment by educating employees on what constitutes sexual harassment and how it can be prevented. However, studies have shown that sexual harassment training is actually not as effective at preventing sexual harassment as many may think.

    Experts believe the biggest reason that sexual harassment training programs are ineffective is due their content and the way they are presented. Most employers implement sexual harassment training programs that are merely designed to comply with legal requirements rather than to actually prevent harassment. These programs typically focus on the definitions of sexual harassment and emphasize how sexual harassment negatively impacts business rather than the more personal ramifications.

    Studies have also pointed to the passive nature of many sexual harassment training programs as another reason for their ineffectiveness. Training programs typically require employees to watch a video or listen to a presentation by a speaker. These programs tend to be very general and are usually of a “one size fits all variety.” Additionally, employees may feel these presentations are awkward or boring causing them to sit there silently without asking any questions or adding anything to the discussion.

    The recent awareness surrounding sexual harassment has caused experts to identify a number of ways in which employers can change their sexual harassment training programs to eliminate these problems and make them more effective. First, all employers should seriously consider implementing a sexual harassment training program if they have not done so already. Any training, even in its most basic form, is better than nothing.

    For employers that already utilize some form of sexual harassment training, experts encourage them to regularly examine their programs and tailor them to their specific workplace. Studies have shown that if a training program is created specifically for a particular workplace, it is more likely to answer employees’ questions. In addition, training programs should create an environment that encourages employees to ask questions and participate as much as possible. This will help to eliminate specific issues that may be present in a particular workplace.

    Additionally, experts suggest that employers focus on the morality of sexual harassment and the effect it has on its victims rather than just listing off a list of definitions. This can help to make training more convincing and help get more employees to buy in. Another way increase the effectiveness of training is to help make employees feel that the company’s sexual harassment policy is working. This can be accomplished by integrating sexual harassment training into the culture of the company and by involving high ranking company employees to show that everyone is being held accountable and that there is actual weight behind the policy.

    It is now more important than ever for employers to review their sexual harassment policies and training programs to make them as effective as possible. Employers may be wise to consult with outside experts on their policies and programs if they lack the necessary training and knowledge themselves.

    If you, or your institution, have any questions concerning sexual harassment training or employment issues generally, please contact Cynthia A. Augello at caugello@cullenanddykman.com or via phone at 516-357-3753.

    Thank you to Ryan Soebke, a law clerk with Cullen and Dykman LLP, for his assistance with this post.