Harassment in the workplace is a sensitive subject. Victims unsure of what qualifies as harassment in the workplace suffer in silence, unwilling to “rock the boat” with employers and report discomforting or even offensive situations.
The #MeToo movement has shone a critical light onto the subject. By and large, standards and policies nationwide are being changed, strengthened, and reinforced.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines harassment as unwelcome verbal or physical behavior that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), gender/gender identity, nationality, age (40 or older), physical or mental disability, or genetic information.
These situations become unlawful when enduring them is used as a condition for continued employment, or when they become so pervasive that the workplace is deemed abusive, threatening, or hostile – in a word, toxic.
But one thing is abundantly clear. Harassment can be perpetrated by anyone – your boss, supervisor, coworker, an employee from another office, a customer, a client, a contractor, or a guest. Victimization, too, is not limited to the individual who is directly harassed – but anyone within their proximity who is impacted, affected, troubled, and disturbed by the behavior. Many states are also encouraging Bystander Intervention training to set the tone for what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable behavior, and in many ways, diffusing a situation from escalating or preventing it altogether.
For these reasons, many states have made sexual harassment training mandatory by law. The laws regulating such training differ from state to state and include specific requirements such as:
- Which employers must provide training (some employers are exempt based on size)
- When a new hire should receive training (immediately, after 30 days, etc.)
- Length of the training and how often it must be delivered (1 hour annually, 2 hours every 2 years, etc.)
- How the training must be conducted to be compliant (in person or webinars)
- Which elements must be included in the training
- Who to report harassment to (within the company and/or the state)
- Supervisors may have separate training requirements
Legislation continues to change, and various jurisdictions will continue to add and expand requirements throughout 2019 and beyond. It is imperative employers review their state or local laws carefully to determine what is required of their companies.
Along with the increased requirements comes potential financial exposure and liability related to harassment in the workplace. Employers should consider hiring an outsourced workforce management company who can help them adopt and adapt to newly enacted legislation. Contact Maslow Media Group today. Our team can help your company stay compliant and can help you take the necessary steps to reduce the risk of legal entanglement.