April 1, 2024

While many employers know they should train on workplace harassment and diversity and inclusion, they often don’t include content on bystander intervention. Bystander intervention is an essential topic for employees to understand to create a harassment-free and more equitable workplace. When employees know how to intervene safely and effectively when they encounter harassment or discrimination, they can have a real impact on their workplace.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) began encouraging employers to offer bystander intervention training in 2016. Now, some jurisdictions have begun to require training on bystander intervention. Leading the way for bystander intervention training are New York City & Chicago. 

In this article, we’ll discuss some of those requirements in action and also address why Bystander Intervention training should be provided to all employees.

What is Bystander Intervention?

While the concept seems simple, it’s important that employees understand how to intervene in a safe and effective way. The last thing an employer wants is their employees to intervene in the wrong situations and/or intervene in a way that creates a dangerous environment. That’s why it’s so important for employees to receive thorough bystander intervention training in the workplace. that training be thorough and effective on this topic.

Bystander intervention occurs when a witness, or bystander, steps in to diffuse harassment or inappropriate behavior. This could involve speaking out against more subtle behaviors like implicit bias, which might be more difficult to spot, or addressing overt workplace harassment. 

Companies can have a maximum impact on creating a healthy culture and decreasing incidents of harassment when they provide their teams with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to engage and intervene when they witness inappropriate conduct.

Bystander Intervention Strategies for Your Workforce

Your entire workforce should be able to identify actions or statements that call for interruption, including harassment, discrimination, microaggressions, and examples of both explicit and unconscious bias. Employees at your organization should also know when and how to interrupt or intervene in those situations both safely and effectively. 

Training should teach strategies that an employee can use to get involved and help bring an end to workplace harassment. Such strategies include:

Delegate: Delegation occurs when an employee tries to stop the harassing behavior by seeking help from others, whether other bystanders or a manager. Using this strategy to delegate help from others has the potential to alleviate any apprehension the employee witnessing the behavior might feel about intervening directly.  

Distract: Distracting means an employee might talk to either the perpetrator or target of the harassment about something else. This way, the employee can interrupt the harassing behavior without antagonizing either party. An effective bystander intervention training should provide the learner with potential real-life, workplace scenarios where this strategy can be used. 

Direct: Direct involvement occurs when a bystander either directly responds to the harasser (and insists they cease their behavior) or to the target and asks if they need help. Understanding when to use this strategy should be outlined in any bystander intervention training, as the training should be meant to empower, not compel, bystanders to intervene.

In addition, focusing on professionalism rather than solely on preventing illegal behavior can be a more effective strategy for preventing harassment and promoting a culture of respect in the workplace.

Bystander Intervention Training Requirements in Action

Bystander intervention is becoming an increasingly sought-after component of anti-harassment and inclusion training. It is an effective way for employees to intervene if they witness sexual, racial, or other forms of harassment in the workplace. 

In 2022, training on Bystander Intervention was added as a workplace training requirement in the city of Chicago. Among other things, this update to the city’s sexual harassment laws requires businesses to mandate one hour of bystander intervention training annually for their employees. 

In addition to employee training, Chicago employers now must update their harassment policies to reflect these updated training requirements. Requiring a full hour of training shows how much importance the city of Chicago is placing on the topic of Bystander Intervention. Though, notable, this was not the first time a city adjusted its requirements. 

In 2018, New York City passed the “Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act,” requiring sexual harassment training to address bystander intervention in the workplace. To date, New York City also requires training on bystander intervention, but it doesn’t go into the same depth as Chicago. It simply states that sexual harassment training should contain information concerning bystander intervention, including but not limited to any resources that explain how to engage in bystander intervention.

Where Can Your Employees Learn More About These Strategies?

Bystander Intervention Training is a simple addition to an organization’s harassment policy, which provides a means of empowering employees to prevent harassment when and where it occurs.

A comprehensive training program should teach individuals how to recognize harassment, understand the impact, and intervene safely and effectively. Additional tools and resources, such as clear and accessible channels for reporting incidents of harassment and programs that recognize and reward individuals who take action to prevent harassment will help to create a culture of proactive intervention.

Traliant’s interactive online training is fully compliant with NYC and Chicago requirements and goes beyond detailing the benefits of bystander intervention. The training focuses on practical approaches that employees can take to actually intervene. Participants will learn skills to intervene effectively when they witness inappropriate conduct, implicit bias, or microaggressions.

Best practices for bystander intervention training include role-playing and self-reflection, and this online course incorporates those tools using realistic scenarios for reaction and reflection.

Consistent with EEOC guidelines and court decisions, Traliant’s interactive, online harassment training covers not just sexual harassment, but all forms of workplace harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. 

The online course is fully customizable; each organization can include its logo, workplace images, introductory messages, and the company’s unique policies and procedures for preventing and addressing workplace discrimination.

Learn more about Traliant’s full suite of online sexual harassment training. Traliant is also proud to offer harassment prevention compliance packages, which include required policies, notices, and postings for each jurisdiction in which employers operate. If you have any questions about the law, please contact us.

This article is for information purposes only. Its contents do not constitute legal advice and readers should not regard this article as a substitute for detailed advice in individual instances


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Elissa Rossi