Living in the Post-#MeToo Era: The Importance of Workplace Sexual Harassment Training

HarassmentTraining

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) recently published the results of a 2018 survey of 263 women regarding their experiences with sexual harassment in the workplace. This was actually a follow-up to a 2016 HBR survey, which was completed before the “#MeToo movement took on wide momentum,” according to the authors. The 2018 survey therefore offered a helpful comparison of the pre- and post-#MeToo environments.

Overall, the authors said “fewer women in our sample reported sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention following the #MeToo movement.” For example, only 16 percent of women surveyed “reported being sexually coerced” in the 2018 survey versus 25 percent in 2016. More dramatically, incidents of “unwanted sexual attention” dropped from 68 percent to just 25 percent. However, the HBR authors cautioned that while this may reflect a decline in “blatant sexual harassment,” there is also evidence to suggest a “backlash effect” in the form of increased gender harassment.

Gender harassment refers to non-sexual acts that target an employee or group of employees based on gender. This typically includes making offensive remarks about women in general. While such actions may not expressly target individual employees, the HBR authors nevertheless warned “constant exposure to gender harassment can be just as damaging to women as the most egregious forms of sexual harassment.”

What Is Bystander Intervention Training, and How Can It Help My Florida Business?

What this means is that all Florida businesses need to continue (or start) taking affirmative steps towards identifying and preventing both sexual and gender harassment in the workplace. Human resource departments need to make anti-harassment training a top priority or hire a workplace training firm to conduct harassment training. And the training itself needs to offer a multi-faceted approach. It is not enough to announce a “zero-tolerance” approach towards harassment. There must also be clear procedures in place to handle sexual and gender harassment complaints.

It is also a wise to conduct “bystander intervention training” for all employees. This is a relatively new form of training that has become commonplace in educational institutions to help prevent cases of sexual assault. The goal of such training is to create an organizational culture where all employees feel empowered to speak out against harassment, even when they are not the target.

As the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explained in a 2016 report, bystander intervention training typically includes the following components:

  • creating awareness so that bystander know how to “recognize potentially problematic behaviors”;
  • developing a sense of collective responsibility, where bystanders can “step in and take action when they observe problematic behaviors”;
  • conducting exercises so employees have the “skills and confidence” to intervene in a harassment situation; and
  • providing resources within the organization that all employees “can call upon” for support in an intervention.

Bystander intervention training is just one tool that businesses need to look at as part of a comprehensive anti-harassment initiative. If you require advice about the best programs and policies for your particular organization or would like assistance with workplace harasssment prevention training, you should consult with a qualified Florida employment law firm providing workplace harassment prevention training right away.

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