HR Management & Compliance, Learning & Development

Antiharassment Training 101

One of the main reasons employers offer antiharassment training is to show they’ve taken proactive steps to avoid harassment. It is also a legal requirement in many states and jurisdictions (and strongly encouraged at the federal level by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), as well).

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Providing antiharassment training and having clear antiharassment policies can be helpful defenses if a claim is ever brought.

Antiharassment Training: The Basics

Here are some basic topics to cover if your organization is just getting started implementing antiharassment training:

  • Explain what constitutes harassment, and detail the difference between sexual harassment and other forms of harassment. Note that none are acceptable.
  • Give specific, realistic examples of illegal harassment—both overt and subtle examples so people can understand the spectrum of behaviors.
  • Explain the consequences for both the employer and employees if they’re found guilty of such behaviors. The employer can often be held legally liable for such actions if it knew or should have known about it.
  • Explain your antiharassment policy.
    • Employees should know what to do if they need to file a complaint. They should know whom they can turn to and should have alternatives in case the person they are supposed to go to is part of the complaint. They should be encouraged to report problematic behaviors immediately.
    • Explain what will be done when a complaint is brought. (Have investigation procedures in place.)
  • Provide information on how supervisors and other staff should respond to complaints or when they witness inappropriate behaviors.
  • Provide information on what others can do if they witness these behaviors.
  • Explain that retaliation for reporting harassment is illegal so employees know they’re protected and managers know it’s not allowed. Even if a complaint is dismissed, as long as it was brought forth in good faith, that action is protected from retaliation.

Getting Started

Tips for implementing antiharassment training:

  • If you’re going to offer antiharassment training in the workplace, consider whether you have the expertise in-house or whether this is something best handled by a third-party vendor. There are a lot of vendor options for this type of training, so you will likely have plenty of choices if you go this route.
  • Supervisors and managers should definitely be in attendance. Not only does the material apply directly to them, but they can also set a good example for other employees by attending and being attentive during the sessions. If the training does not have clear support from the highest levels of the organization, it may be taken less seriously by everyone else.
  • Be careful not to use too much humor. It can be tempting to diffuse this difficult topic by making it lighthearted, but doing so may make it come across as a joke rather than a serious topic.

What other lessons have you learned when implementing antiharassment training? What would you add to this list?

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