Training is First Step for an Effective Anti-Harassment Program
As the waves caused by #MeToo continue to ripple throughout the business world, more of a focus is being placed on training in an effort to readjust workplace interactions to the realities that behaviors that were tolerated or accepted in the past no longer are permitted.
It's not just the business community, either; states are getting into the act. Several have approved laws mandating workplaces train their employees about anti-sexual harassment. New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, and Maine have passed such laws, and more states are expected to follow suit. New York City has its own law taking effect April 1.
LRN has produced a fact sheet that spells out what is required under the various laws of each jurisdiction, as companies with operations in these states will have to make sure they are compliant with all of them. LRN also has a new training course on bystander training, one of the most crucial topics within the area of anti-harassment education.
Here's a breakdown into what each of the new state rules requires:
California: By next Jan. 1, at companies with at least five employees, each supervisory employee must undergo two hours of training, while it's one hour for non-supervisory workers, including seasonal and temporary workers. Training occurs every two years after that.
Connecticut: Supervisors at companies with 50 or more people who have been in the role for at least six months must get two hours of training. No retraining is required, but the state recommends it be updated at least once every three years.
Delaware: For existing supervisors and employees, interactive training must occur by the end of this year, then occur every two years after that. For new supervisors and employees, training is required after they are on the job for at least six months.
Maine: All employees must get training within one year of their hire at workplaces with 15 or more people. No retraining required.
New York: All employees are required to receive model interactive sexual harassment training drafted by the state, or companies can develop their own training that equals or exceeds the standards of the state's training. Training is mandated for all, regardless of the size of the business.
New York City: Workplaces with 15 or more employees must train everyone at least once a year. For new workers, training must occur within 90 days of their initial hire. If a person received training at one employer within the year, then moves to another company, that person doesn't need to take training at the new employer until the next cycle.
Just the first step
Training is necessary but is just a first step for companies as they move to address the issues brought forth through #MeToo, said Davia Temin, president and chief executive of Temin and Co., a crisis management firm.
Training that is provided should actually produce insight, empathy, self-awareness, conviction and behavioral change, she said.
"I'm not talking about something that is eye-rolling PC, or that is judgmental, either," said Temin. "I'm talking about something cool, smart, kind and effective."
Just as important, she said, is to take every allegation seriously, even if it might appear to be frivolous or unfair. And don't think the accused is guilty until he or she is proven guilty.
"Treat the accuser with respect, attention, and seriously investigate their claim," said Temin. "For egregious claims, mount an independent, external, thorough, fair investigation, and be unafraid to act on the findings."
Temin has tracked the number of high-profile people accused of sexual harassment or misconduct or worse since Bill Cosby was accused in December 2015, with more than 800 cases reported between then and the Brett Kavanaugh allegations last year.
Because of the financial and reputational risks that come from ignoring sexual harassment, companies have to relay the information to their people that this is serious stuff, that the days of tacitly condoning harassment are gone, and that top-quality behavior is expected, she said.
Then they must enforce it all.
"People who break the rules need to be put on leave, investigated, and if found guilty, fired," said Temin. "Once that happens, it won't be that difficult to inspire compliance."