What Is Sexual Harassment Training?

Sexual harassment training involves educating employees on what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior within the workplace and equipping them with the tools and knowledge needed to recognize and correct behavior that may be perceived as inappropriate. Though sexual harassment training is not a requirement in most places, all U.S. employers are obligated to maintain a harassment-free workplace for employees. For this reason, places of employment are highly encouraged to provide workers with training on sexual harassment prevention.

When an employee experiences sexual harassment, defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as a form of discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, within the workplace, it can negatively impact them and their ability to do their job. In addition to emotional duress and decreased work performance, sexual harassment can result in lawsuits that are stressful, expensive, and time-consuming for all parties involved.  Experiencing any type of harassment in the workplace poses a significant liability for employers, and the poor publicity these lawsuits tend to bring can cause dire financial repercussions for businesses.

Why Is Sexual Harassment Training Important?

It’s more important than ever for employers to offer anti-harassment training to workers and supervisors. Sexual harassment training aims to provide employees with the critical tools and knowledge needed to ensure they understand how to properly conduct themselves at work. Though anti-harassment training courses typically vary, most cover basic principles like key federal sexual harassment laws, how these relate to the workplace, the legal definitions of harassment and discrimination, company policies, and more.

What Is Sexual Harassment

According to the EEOC, sexual harassment “includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature in the workplace or learning environment.” It encompasses a wide range of actions and does not always have to be sexual in nature. For example, a comment targeted at someone solely based on their sex, like an offensive joke about women, is considered sexual harassment.

Some common types of sexual harassment within the workplace include:

  • Inappropriate touching, leaning over, or pinching
  • Making crude or sexual remarks or gestures
  • Sending unwelcome pornographic images or videos
  • Making unwanted requests for sexual favors
  • Forwarding letters, telephone calls, or materials of a sexual nature

Any type of unwelcome behavior directed at another person is considered harassment. Sexual harassment is the most prevalent type of workplace harassment, with recent studies showing that more than half of all workers having experienced it in some shape or form. While actions like simple teasing, offhand comments, and isolated incidents are not prohibited by law, this type of harassment becomes illegal when it occurs so frequently that it has created a hostile work environment.

What Is the Purpose of Sexual Harassment Training?

Sexual harassment training is designed to help employees recognize and correct the behavior that violates a person’s dignity, privacy, well-being, or personal boundaries. The purpose of anti-harassment training is to equip employees with the knowledge and tools needed to identify, avoid, and report inappropriate behavior within the workplace. Sexual harassment training also plays a vital role for those in managerial or supervisor positions, since they are often held accountable for the corrective actions they take when this type of harassment occurs.

While overt and blatant sexual harassment is often easy to recognize, subtle and covert instances can be more difficult. Subtle harassment, defined as unwanted sexual comments, jokes, or innuendos, can create a hostile work environment or lead to quid pro quo harassment when it is allowed to continue. Quid pro quo harassment is when employment decisions are made based on an employee’s acceptance or rejection of unwanted sexual advances. An example of this type of harassment would be an employee getting fired because they refuse to go on a date with a supervisor.

Sexual harassment training aims to inform employers on how to identify both blatant and covert harassment within the workplace. Anyone can be a victim of sexual harassment. It doesn’t matter what industry you work in, whether you are male or female, or young or old. The bottom line is that all employees reserve the right to feel comfortable at their place of work, and providing sexual harassment training can be highly beneficial for both employers and employees.

What Is Covered During Sexual Harassment Training?

Depending on which course you decide to go with, sexual harassment training courses can cover everything from basic principles and definitions to advanced legal jargon. Most sexual harassment training courses, at the very least, teach employees what constitutes sexual harassment, the legal definitions of discrimination and harassment, the local and federal laws are regarding harassment and company policies about sexual harassment. One particularly helpful aspect of these training courses is that they tend to use interactive content and real-world scenarios to teach employees what is appropriate workplace conduct and what is not.

Other subjects typically covered during sexual harassment training include:

  • Ethics and compliance
  • Examples of sexual harassment
  • Types of sexual harassment (quid pro quo and hostile work environment)
  • What you can do to prevent harassment and discrimination
  • What to do if you experience sexual harassment
  • What actions to take if you witness sexual harassment in the workplace

For managers, sexual harassment training usually consists of what they should do if an employee files a complaint, how to handle the situation in a professional yet compassionate manner, and how to investigate and document the entire process. Since company culture can play a role in the prevention of sexual harassment and discrimination, it’s helpful to cover this topic as well. Liability often falls on managers when a complaint arises, so providing managers with sexual harassment training tends to be highly beneficial for organizations.

Who Will Encounter Sexual Harassment Training?

Almost all employees in every state will encounter sexual harassment training at some point during their careers. As we explained earlier, not every state requires sexual harassment training for employees, but it is encouraged in all 50 states.

Sexual harassment training is required in the following locations

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • New York State
  • New York City

Anti-harassment training is essential for educating both employees and managers on what to do should they find themselves in a situation where they witness sexual harassment occurring, or are a victim of sexual harassment themselves. At Impactly, we offer data-driven, subscription-based solutions that include online anti-harassment training programs that are fully tailored to your organization. Check out our plans and pricing page for more information on our innovative training programs that are designed to help businesses improve their culture and reduce risk.

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Impactly’s online sexual harassment and diversity, equity & inclusion training packages are used by hundreds of organizations across the country. Impactly is powered by Get Inclusive, one of the largest providers of prevention and compliance training for colleges and universities.