In light of recent high-profile sexual harassment scandals, such as those involving Bill O’Reilly and Harvey Weinstein, an increasing number of employers are taking a more critical look at their harassment policies, harassment training, and procedures. This is particularly true given that holiday parties, which can present problems of their own, are right around the corner.
A recent story from NPR, which has also been dealing with its own sexual harassment scandal, examines why harassment training has failed in a number of workplaces. According to the story, “[t]he primary reason most harassment training fails is that both managers and workers regard it as a pro forma exercise aimed at limiting the employer’s legal liability.” The story goes on to note issues with online harassment training courses, which do not engage employees nearly as much as live courses that involve interaction with the trainer.
These conclusions echo those in a recent EEOC task force report, which we wrote about earlier this year. The EEOC has recommended that employers explore different approaches to training, such as bystander intervention and workplace civility, that aim to prevent harassment before it begins rather than solely minimize the risks of harassing behavior after it has started.
With the new year rapidly approaching, employers that have not conducted harassment or civility training recently should consider doing so in 2018. We recommend that employers conduct such training at least once every two years. We have recently re-worked our training to address both traditional objectives—minimizing liability—and new objectives—workplace civility and bystander intervention. To schedule training for your organization or for questions on this or any other labor and employment topic, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Labor and Employment Department.