Does Workplace Harassment Training Work?

A recent report from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has discovered some surprising news. Despite three decades of companies instituting workplace harassment training, complaints involving harassment still flood into the EEOC by the thousands. In fact, out of the 90,000 claims filed with the EEOC in 2015, 28,000 involved harassment.

About three-fourths of those 28,000 claims involved harassment on the basis of sex (gender, sexual orientation, sexual identity and pregnancy status). Workplace harassment occurs when slurs, nicknames or jokes are directed at workers for the purposes of creating an intimidating and hostile workplace environment.

According to the EEOC, many of the training programs in place at workplaces across the country are overly concerned with avoiding legal liability instead of stopping harassment. This would suggest many programs are less concerned with stopping misconduct and may only exist so companies can reduce liability. In fact, the EEOC’s investigation suggests training programs may make workplace harassment worse!

The report suggests that workers targeted with harassment are reluctant to come forward out of fear they will damage their reputations or put their jobs at risk. Even workers who witness harassment are afraid to come forward.

A study conducted by the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science discovered men who participated in a 30-minute sexual harassment training program were less likely to report harassment. If training programs are unsuccessful, what other options do businesses and workers have for stopping harassment?

Can Businesses Improve Workplace Harassment Training?

The EEOC’s report suggests companies can create systems where employees can easily and anonymously report sexual harassment. However, the report also suggests training programs need to focus more on preventing sexual harassment by identifying risk factors. This means employers (or supervisors) must be aware of possible risk factors so they can take preventative action.

Workers targeted with workplace harassment should keep in mind that they may have legal options to hold their employers accountable.

The Los Angeles employment law attorneys at Kesluk, Silverstein, Jacob & Morrison, P.C. can help workers who have been unfairly targeted with workplace harassment.

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