Harassment training in the workplace is mandated in some states, and is recommended by government agencies and business groups as an effective tool to reduce incidents and claims. Businesses of all sizes are subject to harassment claims, and written policies are often not enough to prevent costly legal fees and damages. A properly administered training, reporting and investigation program will help protect your business and educate employees of the seriousness of harassment.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was formed to protect the rights of workers from discriminatory practices based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. The Act and has since been amended to include disability, age and other characteristics, and is upheld in every state. Title 2 of the Texas Labor Code, Sec. 21.001, states that it will "provide for the execution of the policies of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its subsequent amendments."
Harassment is an active by-product of discrimination, when actions occur that punish, undermine, disparage or take advantage of the protected rights of an individual. Sexual harassment is perhaps the most publicized, but harassment takes many forms. Generally, any action that makes a workplace uncomfortable or hostile can constitute harassment, and goes well-beyond inappropriate physical contact. Racial slurs, unwanted nicknames, threats, preferential treatment, disparaging emails or notes, and even inappropriate jokes and language are grounds for potential harassment claims.
Harassment training programs cost money, but will almost always outweigh the costs of a single claim. Businesses pay millions of dollars each year in punitive damages and legal costs, and even a single claim can put some small companies out of business. Written policies against harassment are necessary, but an active training program goes beyond policy by taking a proactive approach to protect the employee and the business.
Reporting And Investigation
Anti-harassment policies and training must be combined with a well-organized reporting and investigation program in order to be effective. Usually handled through the human resource office, employees must be assured of anonymity and protection from retaliation if a claim is made. All claims must be taken seriously, investigated promptly, and corrective action taken when necessary. Steps in making a claim, and how the company will handle them is an important element to include in the training program.
Harassment training is best implemented within the first week of hire for all new employees, and as soon as possible to all current employees. Depending on your budget, training can be in oral, video or slide-show form with printed hand-outs. It is important that trainees sign a training completion form which is kept in their employment file for future reference. Trainings may be updated and repeated periodically for maximum effect, especially if harassment occurrences have been reported.
Matt McKay began his writing career in 1999, writing training programs and articles for a national corporation. His work has appeared in various online publications and materials for private companies. McKay has experience in entrepreneurship, corporate training, human resources, technology and the music business.