A checklist can help
No organization can risk the significant fines, penalties and negative publicity that may result from employees violating anti-harassment laws and policies. As HR professionals know, implementing an effective compliance training program is an important step in educating employees on their responsibilities to prevent workplace harassment and comply with current local, state and federal laws.
But how do you know if your training program is sufficient or meets all the legal requirements? It isn’t always easy or clear cut. To simplify the process, we’ve put together a few checklists to help you evaluate the effectiveness of your current compliance-training program. The checklists cover:
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) offered some checklists of its own in a report published last June by a task force that studied workplace harassment. For more on the report and the EEOC’s 2017 Proposed Guidance on Unlawful Harassment – not yet finalized – see our previous post.
The EEOC recommends that employers conduct regular, interactive training, tailored to the organization and designed to actively engage learners. Harassment training should also include:
☑ Descriptions of conduct that, if left unchecked, might rise to the level of unlawful harassment
☑ Information about employees’ rights and responsibilities if they experience, observe or become aware of conduct that they believe may be prohibited
☑ Explanations of the organization’s complaint process
☑ Explanations of the possible consequences for engaging in or failing to address prohibited conduct
Harassment training for supervisors and managers should include:
☑ Information on how to prevent, identify, stop, report and correct harassment
☑ Information on how to identify potential harassment risks and specific actions managers can take that may minimize or eliminate those risks
Compliance training and an affirmative defense
If an organization finds itself involved in a harassment claim and EEOC investigation, having an effective compliance training program, along with accurate training records, can be an important part of a defense against the charge.
In two landmark sexual harassment cases (Faragher v. City of Boca Raton and Ellerth v. Burlington Industries), the US Supreme Court established the “affirmative defense” for employers. An affirmative defense is one in which an employer can show they exercised “reasonable care to prevent and correct any harassing behavior, and the employee “unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective” measures provided by the employer.
Implementing an effective compliance training program and communicating its importance throughout the organization can certainly qualify as essential components of “reasonable care.”
Compliance training checklists can help organizations make sure they are covering all the necessary bases for managing the risk of workplace harassment and discrimination. In its proposed harassment enforcement guidelines, the EEOC has made it clear it will be looking for employers who provide regular, interactive, comprehensive training for all employees – at every level and location. Check.