Over the last few months, there has been a lot of media coverage about sexual harassment in the workplace. From Harvey Weinstein to Kevin Spacey, big Hollywood names have been accused of sexual misconduct both inside and outside of work. With such intense media scrutiny on this topic, now is the time to conduct harassment prevention training at your office.
The importance of harassment training cannot be understated. Claiming ignorance is not an option! Human Resources professionals must be proactive in conducting harassment trainings. Ideally, there should be two different sets of trainings – one for managers and one for employees.
Managers should be trained on how to spot harassment in the workplace, and what to do if an employee comes to them with a personal harassment complaint or as a witness to harassment. Managers must also be informed that retaliation against an employee with a complaint or as a witness is a total no-no. Victims and witnesses have the right to voice their situations without fear of losing their jobs, being demoted, or being brushed off. In addition, your management team should be aware that they must report any harassment to Human Resources immediately so it can be handled appropriately.
Employees should receive a separate training on the types of harassment, whether it be sexual or based on some other protected class like religion, race, gender, etc. In addition, employees should know that they must go to their manager or Human Resources without fear of retaliation to report any incident of harassment. Conveying an open-door policy on this issue is paramount. Once Human Resources is notified of the complaint, a full investigation should begin, and employees should know that all harassment complaints will be taken seriously and addressed immediately. Disciplinary action should also be taken on those accused of harassment, up to and including termination.
Lawsuits can potentially be avoided if harassment is reported promptly and action is taken swiftly. The moral of the story – make sure your entire staff is trained on harassment, and that every complaint is investigated thoroughly and taken seriously.