EEOC Wants Employers to “Reboot” Harassment Prevention

Many employers provide some training for their employees on the subject of sexual harassment. Recently, the EEOC has provided its view on employer training. The EEOC’s 16-person task force found that the training spent too much time on limiting liability and too little time on preventing harassment in the first place.

In simplest terms, the EEOC found that employers focused on making sure employees understood the company’s policy and complaint mechanism. These are things that an employer can use to defend itself in a harassment lawsuit. The EEOC task force recommended that rather than focus on minimizing liability, the training should explore topics such as bystander intervention and workplace civility. The hope is that this broader training could take steps to prevent harassment before it even begins, as opposed to dealing with minimizing the risks of harassing behavior after it has occurred.

This is the first time the EEOC has provided guidance on training in the harassment realm. For many years, the EEOC focused on employers having training of any kind and raising awareness of harassment in the workplace. Now that the agency has provided specific direction, employers will be wise to follow it.

If it has been a while since your workforce has been trained in sexual harassment or civility in the workplace, consider scheduling such a training. We recommend that the workforce receive training at least once every two years. Recently, we have re-worked our training to deal with both the traditional objective of minimizing liability and the EEOC’s new focus on workplace civility and bystander intervention.

To schedule training for your company, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Labor and Employment Department: George Hlavac, Steve Hoffman, Jeff Stewart, Ed Easterly, or John Buckley.