With a new wave of sex harassment complaints making headlines, there is also a bit of reflection that should happen at workplaces and the lawfirms that counsel them.
One area that we can evaluate is whether the training that is provided is effective.
A report yesterday from NPR concluded that training is just not working at many workplaces.
The 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.
For those of us who have been paying attention, this isn’t new. I know that for the trainings I give, I try to have them be engaging with discussions of different fact scenarios being discussed.
But I’ve wondered whether we could be doing more.
Indeed, the EEOC issued a report last year highlighting the problems with existing training programs.
In its executive summary, it noted two big issues with the current model of training:
- “Training Must Change. Much of the training done over the last 30 years has not worked as a prevention tool – it’s been too focused on simply avoiding legal liability. We believe effective training can reduce workplace harassment, and recognize that ineffective training can be unhelpful or even counterproductive. However, even effective training cannot occur in a vacuum – it must be part of a holistic culture of non-harassment that starts at the top. Similarly, one size does not fit all: Training is most effective when tailored to the specific workforce and workplace, and to different cohorts of employees. Finally, when trained correctly, middle-managers and first-line supervisors in particular can be an employer’s most valuable resource in preventing and stopping harassment.
- New and Different Approaches to Training Should Be Explored. We heard of several new models of training that may show promise for harassment training. “Bystander intervention training” – increasingly used to combat sexual violence on school campuses – empowers co-workers and gives them the tools to intervene when they witness harassing behavior, and may show promise for harassment prevention. Workplace “civility training” that does not focus on eliminating unwelcome or offensive behavior based on characteristics protected under employment non-discrimination laws, but rather on promoting respect and civility in the workplace generally, likewise may offer solutions.”
Connecticut requires harassment training; I’ve talked about the requirements in some prior posts (check this one out from 2010, for example.) But employers who have just gone through the motions, aren’t doing enough as we’ve now seen.
As we continue to work to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace, having an effective policy is only part of the solution.
Making sure the training we provide to employees is helpful is obviously a part as well — and something that may have been overlooked in the past.
But finding that perfect solution to training still seems elusive.