Prevention of Sexual Harassment Training

In today’s workplace environment you better have a prevention of sexual harassment training program or you could be at risk of being sued. In fact in California it is required to follow the state law AB1825, which places a huge financial burden on the employer. Although I believe strongly that sexual harassment must not be allowed in the workplace I do believe there is an easier less expensive way to prevent it.

Let’s first understand all the various elements of sexual harassment and how easily an organization can fall victim to being responsible. First and foremost the law states that if an organization knew or should have known that the harassment was taking place they take on responsibility. This in my opinion is the big one. As an example even if you have conducted prevention of sexual harassment training seven days a week and two hours a day, then you have someone in your organization that tells sexually suggestive jokes openly in the break room you are now at risk. You may be saying that you or your supervisors never go into the employee break room except on a very limited basis. The problem is that you have a responsibility to know what goes on in your organization. Make sure when you are training to make it clear that sexual jokes and/or comments are not tolerated.

The second most difficult part of creating an environment to prevent sexual harassment is that from the time God created Adam and Eve, men and women flirt! When does flirting become sexual harassment? When it is no longer welcome! Sounds simple doesn’t it? It’s not quite that simple. In fact it can get very complicated. Let’s take a look at it.

Whether it is a man flirting with a women or a woman flirting with a man once one of the parties decide they are not interested it must stop. In most cases the law recognizes that one of the two parties has a responsibility to inform the other person they are not interested or no longer interested. They also have a responsibility to inform their supervisor if it continues after that point. The supervisor then has the responsibility to put a stop to it. Life goes on and the world is wonderful place right? It rarely if ever goes down so easily.

Generally speaking the person being flirted with plays along at first even if they are not interested. Therefore, in most cases they are encouraging the other person. I don’t think I have ever investigated a report of sexual harassment yet that has not provided this as a defense. Then the person being flirted with begins to get more and more frustrated; however, they rarely ever inform the other party that they are no longer interested or have not been interested from the start. They begin talking with their friends and family and everyone gives them legal advice no matter how flawed it is. Before you know it you have an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claim arriving requesting tons of information about the sexual harassment claim. Unfortunately if you allow any type of flirting in your workplace it is important that you make it clear in your training sessions an employee’s responsibility if they are not interested.

The prevention of sexual harassment training must include what sexual harassment is, what they should do if they experience it, and who they should report it to. When an employee finds themselves being sexually harassed by their supervisor it becomes hard to know who to report the problem to. Kind of like a parent mistreating their child. The person of trust is the violator. So make sure when you are conducting your prevention of sexual harassment training you have several options for an employee to report the problem to.

When it is a supervisor it places your organization in a position of great risk. This is the worst form of sexual harassment and will destroy a company if they do not handle it swiftly once it is identified. Training and more training is the key. Following training the next step is to make it easy for employees to report any violations that occur in your organization, whether harassment or even stealing. Make it easy and have options for them if it is a supervisor.

Thank you and May God bless you!

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