November 15, 2023

Employers should provide sexual harassment training to all employees in all states. Choosing to provide harassment prevention training to only employees in states where it is required exposes an employer to increased legal risks. 

The average cost of defending a sexual harassment lawsuit and settling a claim is $75,000. If the case doesn’t settle, defending a lawsuit at trial costs upwards of $125,000 depending on the duration. The average jury award in a harassment trial is $600,000 but can reach millions based on the severity of the harassment. 

Potential legal risks of employee exclusion 

Violation of State Laws: Several states and cities have laws mandating employers provide sexual harassment prevention training to their employees. Currently, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Chicago, Maine, New York and New York City have statutes requiring sexual harassment training. Failure to comply with this requirement can result in penalties, fines, or legal action from state authorities.  

Other states have laws that “encourage” employers to provide training, including Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont and Wisconsin.  

Even where harassment prevention training is not required by statute, under the law of many states, an employer who fails to train employees may lose the ability to assert important defenses in a harassment case. 

Federal Law: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued guidelines providing that employers in all states should conduct anti-harassment training for all employees and reinforce it regularly to ensure they understand their rights and responsibilities. Under federal court decisions, an employer must be able to show that it took steps to prevent and correct harassment in order to assert certain defenses to a claim. An employer who can demonstrate that it regularly provides training to all employees, as part of a program to prevent and correct harassment, can escape liability entirely in certain cases.   

Additionally, an employer who is found liable for sexual harassment can avoid punitive damages if it can show it took steps to prevent and correct harassment, including by providing training. 

From entry-level to executive: harassment prevention training benefits all ranks  

Having all employees complete anti-harassment training helps to ensure that everyone in an organization understands what harassment is, what to do if they experience harassment directly or as a bystander, and how to report concerns about harassment. Additional benefits include: 

  • Promoting a Positive Work Culture: Educating all employees sends a clear message that harassment is unacceptable. Providing training fosters a positive work culture which can increase employee morale and job satisfaction. 
  • Reducing Retaliation: Employees who are trained in what unlawful retaliation is and how to avoid it are less likely to take actions that could be seen as retaliatory. 
  • Keeping Up with Evolving Laws & Practices: Training all employees regularly keeps your entire workforce up to date on new harassment legal standards and strategies for prevention. 
  • Facilitating a Consistent Company Culture: Uniform training assures that employees across an organization understand what is lawful, what is not, how to report concerns and what the organization will do if a concern is reported. Providing this information to employees in advance of an issue arising makes it much more likely that employees will bring concerns to HR or to management, where the employer can make sure that concerns are properly addressed. 

Preview Traliant’s Sexual Harassment training. It complies with laws in all 50 states and is backed by an in-house staff of expert attorneys. 


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Elissa Rossi