Importance of Sexual Harassment Training in Today’s Rapidly Changing Workplace

There has been a significant shift across industries regarding workplace sexual harassment, as victims and bystanders are more confident than ever to report inappropriate behavior and speak up against abuse.

States and countries worldwide have passed laws on mandatory annual sexual harassment training in the workplace for all employees, supervisors, and managers. Apart from helping prevent and stop any misconduct in the workplace, it sends a clear message from the top and creates a safe, respectful, happy, and productive workplace.

Here are some of the top reasons why workplace sexual harassment training is paramount.

Raising Awareness About Acceptable and Unacceptable Behaviors

Many people still don’t have a clear understanding of what constitutes sexual harassment. They know that physical sexual harassment is an obvious example, together with requests for sexual favors and unwanted sexual advances. But many of them don’t realize that sexual harassment can be verbal and visual too.

A practical sexual harassment course can clear all the gray areas, educating an entire workforce on appropriate and inappropriate behaviors in the workplace.

When people know all about it, they can prevent it. They know what they can do to prevent or stop sexual misconduct and what legal remedies are available to the victims.

Sexual harassment training helps them understand the boundaries better to be more respectful to all their colleagues.

Furthermore, they can learn more about the consequences of sexual harassment on a victim’s psyche and personal and professional life, not to mention the physical ramifications of misconduct.

Empowering Bystanders

Many sexual harassment incidents include bystanders, who don’t always intervene stop unwanted behaviors. Most of the time, they turn a blind eye to misconduct because they don’t want to face the perpetrator’s potential retaliation.

But choosing to ignore the problem doesn’t make it go away.

An inappropriate look that seems innocent to a bystander might be a glimpse into a much bigger problem. It might soon exacerbate behind closed doors or may already be happening.

That’s why bystander intervention is a crucial part of sexual harassment training. It informs everyone on the ways to prevent or stop sexual misconduct, not just in the workplace but also outside the corporate walls.

It teaches them how to report unlawful behaviors if they ever witness them and offer support to any potential victim.

Encouraging Reporting

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Criminal Victimization survey, only 310 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to the police. That means that nearly all sexual harassment incidents go unreported.

Sexual harassment training can help decrease this alarming number and put an end to a toxic work environment.

Fear of retaliation is the most common reason for not reporting unwanted behaviors, which goes for both assaulted workers and bystanders. Victims often feel ashamed and/or guilty, and they don’t want their coworkers to start seeing them differently.

A sexual harassment course can encourage everyone to report any sexual misconduct, informing them of all the ways they can file a complaint. Some of the common reporting mechanisms are dedicated emails and ethics hotlines, which can ensure anonymity.

Proper training can help create a no-tolerance policy regarding sexual harassment, further encouraging reporting without fearing retaliation or other consequences.

It can send a clear message that all complaints will be taken seriously (as they should be) and that appropriate measures will be taken to ensure a thorough investigation.

Creating a Strong Workplace Culture

Effective sexual harassment training helps create a positive and respectful work environment where everyone feels safe and enjoys working.

That’s a direct result of educating all workers on how to stop unwanted behaviors in their tracks, empowering them to report it, and creating a zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy. It helps everyone feel safer and confident that their coworkers will step in to protect them against abusers if an incident ever occurs.

And when people are happier in the workplace, their productivity spikes, which helps improve the bottom line, reduce employee turnover, and maintain a good business reputation.

It’s important to note that sexual harassment and workplace discrimination are often based on gender, race, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, disability, religious beliefs, and age.

Sexual harassment training can address all these issues and create a diverse and inclusive workplace where everyone is treated fairly and equally.

Complying With the Law

All the U.S. states have laws on mandatory sexual harassment training that employers must conduct annually. The training frequency varies across different jurisdictions, which have other provisions as well, such as training new hires within six months of starting a new position.

Failure to provide the necessary training will attract hefty fines and other penalties.

Suppose an incident occurs, and the harassed employee files a lawsuit. In that case, your company could be held liable, even if you had no idea that any misconduct was happening under your corporate roof.

With a sexual harassment course, you can reduce the risk of litigation and protect your business.

As a business organization, you must have proof of sexual harassment training. That’s a requirement from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency that investigates all claims of sexual harassment and workplace discrimination.

Does Your Company Provide Sexual Harassment Training?

If you operate in a country or state where sexual harassment training isn’t mandatory or requires training only for some employees, you should still provide it to your entire workforce.

Create an interactive sexual harassment course that empowers your workers and fosters an inclusive, respectful, and safe work environment. Create a workplace where there’s no room for inappropriate behaviors, and that helps people connect, forge meaningful relationships, and thrive.

Prevention is the best tool against workplace sexual harassment, so go ahead and develop an effective strategy that benefits both your company and your employees.

- Kamy Anderson