I came across an article in the New Hampshire Business Journal addressing the onslaught of allegations that are coming to light regarding sexual harassment. The writer, Charla Bizios Stevens, who chairs the Employment Law Practice Group at McLane Middleton, writes, “Recently, two Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) commissioners said that visits to the sexual harassment pages on the organization’s website had increased fourfold since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke.” I’m not surprised. Curious individuals are anxious that their own behavior could be grounds for firing while others are wondering if something they deemed “appropriate” long ago, is, in fact, not the case. More and more sexual harassment allegations will be brought forward, so employers need to be ready on their end as to how they will take action when someone is reported and what measures they can take with employees to ensure this kind of behavior is not tolerated.
Training related to sexual harassment over the past 30 years, the article mentions, has been ineffective (obviously). This may be because companies complete these trainings to minimize legal risks instead of getting the main points across. The EEOC commissioners stated that “ineffective training can be unhelpful or even counterproductive.”
So, what can organizations do to create “holistic cultures of non-harassment?” Consider these points:
- Hold employees accountable for their role in the prevention of harassment
- Tailor training to fit the needs of the organization and its employees
- Use hypothetical scenarios that are relevant to the employee’s work field and work space; avoid generic scenarios that employees do not relate to
- Engage employees via trainings that are in-person, rather than web-based
- Offer by-stander intervention trainings, civility trainings, and create a general culture of mutual respect
- Ensure an employee hotline is in place that can give employees means to report inappropriate behavior, anonymously if necessary
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