Avoiding Mistakes in Sexual Harassment Prevention Training

An employer shipped out copies of an expensive video program to dozens of distant managers without providing HR staff to either answer questions or ensure that employees were actually following and learning from the programs. Many of the managers turned on the videos in break rooms and left them running while employees came and went.

Headache #2: During face-to-face anti-harassment training given by a lower-level supervisor, he let it be known that he had no use for the training and was just going through the motions.

Regardless of whether or not you comply with any mandated sexual harassment training laws, jurors are increasingly unwilling to accept a “check the box” approach to harassment prevention training; they want to see training that is interactive, memorable, supported by senior management, and delivered by a credible, well-trained presenter. Given that an ineffective training program will provide little or no protection in the event of a lawsuit, let’s take a look at the essential components of an effective training program and identify some of the most common pitfalls.

Effort May Count – But Not MuchHarassment prevention is not an easy subject to teach. One reason many training programs are of such poor quality is that a real mastery of the subject requires a high level of legal understanding coupled with the practical concepts understood by those who have a firm grasp of the day-to-day realities of the workplace. Many training programs fail to integrate the two disciplines and thus fall short in one respect or the other.

Another major reason is that, up until now, most employers have viewed anti-harassment training as something you show up and provide information about, then let them “learn” by doing. Employers, however, cannot afford to let supervisors “wing it” when it comes to learning how to recognize, refrain from, or properly handle sexual harassment. Supervisors and managers not only have to master complicated concepts in advance, but must also practice proper techniques for effective prevention and complaint handling. That requires time, attention, and education, not just training.

Who Should TrainAs the quality of compliance training has increasingly become grist for the plaintiff attorney’s mill, the selection of an outstanding training provider a critical business issue. The advantages of in-house HR or training personnel include cost and the fact that such staff is knowledgeable about the particular workplace, the employees being trained, and the particular business or industry.