HR’s Workplace Harassment Training Guide

Training supervisors and employees to understand and respond to all forms of harassment is essential for building a positive workplace. Whereas every employee has the right to work in a safe place, every employer has the responsibility to ensure this is so. Workplaces must be respectful, inclusive and tolerant. 

It is important that workplace harassment training is offered to employees and managers alike. Training is crucial as it not only eradicates cases of sexual harassment, bullying, discrimination, and other hostile behavior. It also avoids lawsuits, penalties, fines and any critical media attention. 

Today we’re going to answer the following questions in relation to harassment training for employees. 

Identifying Workplace Harassment

Of course, any behavior or activity considered hostile or harassment in the workplace is unacceptable. Therefore, it is at the top of any HR manager’s list of behaviors to combat. Yet, you might be wondering what actually constitutes harassment? 

Harassment can be physical or verbal. If any instance of this happens within the workplace, it can lead to immediate dismissal and, in some cases, legal action. Verbal harassment, on the other hand, is more difficult to identify. This is because the exact behaviors related to this are subjective. Generally speaking, harassment of a verbal nature is defined as discrimination against a person, such as in the case of verbal discrimination against LGBT, for example. 

As an employer, it is important to identify what the most common types of harassment are. This way, managers can take steps to prevent these from occurring. 

The Two Most Common Types of Harassment

Although there are many kinds of harassment, there are two types that are particularly prevalent in the workplace today. These are:

  • Sexual Harassment

This includes any harassment of a sexual nature and unwanted sexual conduct. This ranges from the sharing of sexual photographs to inappropriate touching or gestures. Sexual jokes or comments also fit within this bracket. Unfortunately, this is one of the most commonly documented forms of workplace harassment. This has led to the creation of sexual harassment law in order to protect employees. Therefore, any conduct of this nature is illegal and can be prosecuted. 

  • Hostile Work Environment 

Any scenario in which a hostile working environment is created is considered harassment. This is any case in which behavior is demeaning, derogatory or discriminatory. So much so that it causes a person to experience extreme unease and negatively affects their work performance.  

Many employers ask “What behaviors are considered criteria for a hostile work environment?” These include any discrimination against people in specific groups. For instance, race, gender, sexuality, religion, pregnancy, age, etc. It is up to the employee to bring cases of harassment to the notice of the employer. Then appropriate action, possibly of a legal or disciplinary nature, can be taken against the perpetrator.

Workplace Harassment Training & Prevention

Workplace harassment prevention is crucial to a positive working environment. Managers and employees are obligated by many employers to undertake workplace harassment training. The ultimate aim of this is to make all staff feel safe and respected. 

So what is anti harassment training for employees? There are various types of workplace harassment courses that offer this training. Generally, they focus on different training scenarios in which they explore the fundamentals of harassment. They also advise employees of the best practices for handling, reporting and preventing harassment. The courses are often available both in-person and online. 

Harassment Training in the Workplace

Many courses are general and cover basic harassment training in the workplace fundamentals. They cover themes like respectful behavior, dating and social relationships, abusive conduct and gender identity and expression. Yet, some are more topic-specific, focusing on one type of harassment only. An example of this is a sexual harassment training course. As it is one of the most common types of harassment, it is particularly sought-after. With recent movements like #MeToo, employers must aim to empower their workers to quickly identify this issue and feel secure enough to speak out on it. Focusing on strategies for sexual harassment prevention protects both the workers’ and company’s reputation. 

Benefits of Anti-Harassment Training 

You might be wondering why these training programs are carried out? The simple answer is that the benefits are plentiful. Let’s take a look at some below. 

Reducing workplace harassment and discrimination 

By simply detecting and demonstrating the behaviors that constitute harassment, you’re making employees aware of what’s good practice and what’s not. Therefore, they will know the consequences of these actions and be less likely to behave in this way. As such, there is likely to be a reduction in harassment within the workplace. 

Training Online is Efficient and Accessible 

Online harassment training is great for companies that do not have the resources for in-house training courses. It is efficient, as it reduces training costs, and accessible as it can be done at home in the employee’s own time. 

Encourages Reporting 

Employees will learn how to file harassment complaints. This will encourage the reporting of such behaviors, allowing managers to combat harassment faster. 

Strengthens Workplace Culture 

Workplace harassment training offers the opportunity to inspire individuals to act ethically. In turn, this means protecting the organization and its reputation. The organization’s core values and goals regarding harassment must be effectively communicated through training. All of this comes together to strengthen and support workplace culture. 

California and Training Frequency

Employers often wonder how frequently training must be done. The short answer is that harassment training requirements vary state by state. So depending on your location, legal requirements will vary also.

For companies based in California, the State law recently expanded the SB 1343 training bill Senate Bill 1343. This Bill’s aim is to eradicate sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Since September 30 th 2018, under this Bill, employers need to give sexual harassment training to all employees. This must be done every two years and within a new employee’s first six months of hiring. The Bill also requires that companies provide:

  • All non-supervisory employees with at least one hour of mandatory sexual harassment and discrimination training
  • All supervisors with at least two hours of such training

Your organization will need to schedule and deliver SB1343 training to your workforce prior to the Bill’s January 1 st 2021 deadline. 

Employee Harassment Training Online…

Employers must ensure that workplace harassment training is a top priority. Working in a hostility free environment promotes a positive work ethic. It also fosters a company culture of respect, inclusion and tolerance. It not only benefits workers, but the spin-off is that the business runs more smoothly.

Spend more energy on your employees & less time lost in cumbersome HR tasks.

Contributed by Charlotte Stace; Edited by Tanya Lesiuk

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