Most states now require employers to provide sexual harassment training for supervisors and other employees, with California, Connecticut, and New York leading the way. Sexual harassment training offers essential benefits for employees and businesses.
The Risk of Sexual Harassment Liability
Important Supreme Court decisions distinguish between sexual harassment committed by employees such as managers and supervisors and sexual harassment committed by co-workers.
Businesses are negligent when they learn about an act of sexual harassment and fail to take steps to protect the harassed employee. Companies need to investigate sexual harassment complaints and take immediate action.
Businesses can also be negligent when they fail to take an affirmative approach to prevent sexual harassment. Employers invite lawsuits when they do not clarify to their employees that they will not tolerate sexual harassment in the workplace.
Raising a Shield Against Claims of Negligence
The training will also help the employer protect itself from a claim that it tolerated sexual harassment behavior and negligently failed to prevent it.
By emphasizing during training that the employer has a complaint reporting process and encouraging sexually harassed employees to follow that process, the employer takes advantage of Supreme Court cases that create a defense to sexual harassment charges. Of course, when an employee follows the reporting process, the employer might still be negligent if it fails to investigate and respond to the complaint in good faith and in a timely manner. Training employees about the importance of the complaint process is a critical first step to avoiding liability for sexual harassment committed by co-employees.
Training managers and supervisors emphasize taking sexual harassment complaints seriously. Since businesses can be held responsible for sexual harassment committed by managers even if the company is unaware of the harassment, it is essential that managers and supervisors understand what they can and cannot do.
Sexually harassed employees are more likely to use sick leave to recover from the trauma of being harassed. The failure to control sexual harassment increases an employer’s sick leave costs, including the expense of replacing harassed employees with temporary workers.
Companies with high rates of sexual harassment are more likely to have high employee turnover.
Sexual harassment training increases employee morale and lowers employee turnover.
Other Benefits of Sexual Harassment Training
Companies benefit from a diverse workforce. When harassment targets employees because of gender or sexual orientation, the harassed employees have an incentive to work elsewhere. The loss of diversity makes businesses vulnerable to discrimination lawsuits. As importantly, businesses lose the value of multiple points of view that allow enterprises to make good decisions. A gender-diverse workforce will enable companies to evolve and thrive in a competitive environment.
Failing to control sexual harassment makes it difficult to recruit new employees. Many employees are reluctant to join a business with a bad reputation for protecting its employees.
In addition, sexual harassment harms corporate reputations. Businesses may lose customers and employees when they fail to prove to employees and the public that they are committed to creating a workplace that values all employees, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
Sexual harassment training, coupled with a sexual harassment prevention policy, assures employees that they are valued while setting clear expectations for employee behavior.
Sexual harassment training minimizes the risk of lawsuits, increases employee satisfaction, reduces employee turnover, improves employee productivity, and avoids reputational harm.