Keeping Your New Year Resolutions
With the New Year, many employers wisely made it their 2018 resolution to avoid making #MeToo headlines. As with all resolutions, merely wishing them to happen (or in this case not happen) is not enough. It takes action. As we discussed in a recent article, one big step for this resolution is manager and employee training. Prevention is the best tool to eliminate harassment in the workplace.
First, in addition to practical training for all employees, we recommend advanced training for managers. All employees should receive training which includes definitions/examples of harassment and an outline of the internal complaint processes available to the employee. Managers should be trained to respond to harassment complaints. The best practice is to have an outlined response plan included in your company’s well-written, anti-harassment policy. For example, discreetly investigate, maintain confidentiality to the extent possible and follow-up. An employer’s investigation and follow-up are critical to reducing legal risk, eliminating harassment and improving workplace culture. In fact, manager training is so important, that some states have made it mandatory. In California and Connecticut, supervisory employees must receive sexual harassment training within 6 months of assuming of a supervisory position. This is a good practice for employers in all states.
Second, we recommend in-person training specifically tailored to your workplace. The #MeToo movement does not discriminate. Harassment can occur in a workplace of any shape and size. We’ve found that industry-specific training and examples prevent employees from saying “well, that wouldn’t happen here.” In-person training also allows for an open discussion of real-life workplace scenarios. Connecticut is on the right track here – the state requires that the mandatory training take place in a classroom-like setting, using clear and understandable language in a format that allows participants to ask questions and receive answers. This is much more effective than videos.
Third, put a schedule in place now. Well-intended resolutions fall by the wayside without a schedule. (My exercise resolution is a great example.) Employers should require employees to attend harassment training annually. This sends a message to employees that the Company is serious about the policy and harassment prevention.
Finally, keep an eye out for both state and federal legislative initiatives this year that may expand protections or add compliance requirements. Stay tuned.