You want your business to succeed. You know your employees have to feel safe to focus on their work. You also know that a sexual harassment lawsuit could wreck morale and destroy your company’s reputation.
That’s why you have to understand sexual harassment – what it is and know how to train your people to make sure it isn’t happening on your watch.
Sexual harassment in the workplace isn’t always easy to define. But it almost always fits these characteristics:
- It is unwelcome
- It is verbal, visual or physical
- It is of a sexual nature
- It affects working conditions or creates hostile work environment
Government regulations define sexual harassment in two ways:
Quid Pro Quo (“this for that”): An employee’s daily assignments or opportunity for advancement are tied to how they respond to sexual advances and other conduct of a sexual nature. In other words, submission to or rejection of unwanted advances are considered when employment decisions are made.
Hostile Environment: Unwelcome sexual advances and other conduct of a sexual nature interfere with work performance. This is the type that causes the most problems. Quid pro quo is fairly straightforward—the violation is clear and easy to prove. With hostile environment, employees are dealing with behavior that is in the eye of the beholder. Risqué jokes and overheard conversations that may be fine to some people are offensive to other people. Remember—harassment can be verbal or physical. But it may also be non-verbal, as in the case of offensive gestures, displaying nude photos in public spaces or giving suggestive “gifts.”
Victims can be men or women; so can the harassers. It might come in the form of crude, off-color comments. It might be that an employee has to constantly fend off requests for dates. Did you know that even requests to “just to go get a few drinks after work” constitute harassment if the coworker won’t take “no” for an answer?
Aside from the ethical and legal problems, sexual harassment is bad for business because it results in low morale and decreased work efficiency. The company’s reputation can suffer, and employee absences will increase.
Is your business required to offer sexual harassment training?
Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which applies to employers with 15 or more employees, federal, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor organizations. Individual states also have requirements about what kinds of businesses must offer training.
Maine, for example, requires businesses with 15 or more employees to offer training. Connecticut and California require training where there are 50 or more employees. 360training.com has sexual harassment prevention training available for businesses in all states. We have courses that meet California’s strict guidelines for compliance, including training for managers and employees in English and Spanish.
The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) encourages all employers to provide sexual harassment training. Even if your state doesn’t require it, statistics show these courses improve morale and productivity. Showing that your company has taken steps to educate your workforce will prevent violations from occurring and will help you defend against liability should allegations of violations arise.
How often must training take place? California’s AB1825 requires managers to take two hours of classroom or eLearning training every two years. 360training.com offers this course. Many industries (even those outside California) enroll in our courses to avoid the headache of sexual harassment lawsuits and to keep their employees safe.
Remember, your business should not be apprehensive about getting training out of fear that employees will be suddenly motivated to start making sexual harassment complaints. On the contrary, training your staff to maintain a safe and productive workplace will be your best defense against allegations and legal action.