Employment attorney and North Shore Law member, Marcia Cotler, was interviewed on WGN news on the topic of sexual harassment prevention training. Watch her here: http://wgntv.com/2017/11/15/cook-county-commissioners-discussing-sexual-harassment-ordinance/
Below are Ms. Cotler’s views on sexual harassment prevention training.
Sexual harassment claims have exploded in the media bringing the topic to the forefront of our national conversation. Between the senators, movie stars, Hollywood producers, and TV executives, it seems harassment is pervasive. For far too long our society has turned a blind eye to this insidious problem. Harassment is tantamount to adult bullying. In the context of the workplace, the perpetrator often abuses a power imbalance in which the employee is rendered powerless due to a need to retain a job or advance a career. No person should ever have to tolerate being subjected to harassment to earn a living.
In response to the media exposure and the #MeToo movement, employers are becoming more proactive in eliminating sexual harassment from their work places. Sexual harassment prevention training effectively addresses the problem of harassment in three ways:
- Training teaches employees to apply the law to everyday workplace situations. Employees learn specifically what is considered appropriate workplace behavior. Simply knowing that sexual harassment is illegal is not enough because the law, in and of itself, is an abstract concept. Employees need to learn how to apply the law to everyday workplace interactions which include not only verbal conversations, but emails, text messaging and posts on social media.
- Employers who mandate sexual harassment prevention training to their employees are forewarning potential perpetrators that their actions will not be tolerated. These potential perpetrators are made aware that there will be serious consequences for engaging in unlawful conduct. This message, properly delivered, serves as a strong deterrence to future misconduct.
- Training creates a positive work culture in which employees feel they have permission to report sexual harassment. Knowing that the employer will not tolerate harassment and that the employee will not be retaliated against for coming forward empowers victimized employees who might otherwise have lacked the courage to speak up.
Sexual harassment prevention training makes good economic sense:
- Employers suffer financial liability when sexual harassment persists within their workforce. An employer’s liability is further heightened if the perpetrator is a manager or supervisor. Sexual harassment prevention training not only reduces incidents of harassment, but the very act of offering training often serves to mitigate potential future liability of the part of the employer.
- Sexual harassment prevention training promotes a positive work environment in which respect is valued and in which employees feel safe. It encourages employees to stand up for one another, thereby promoting a sense of community. Eliminating sexual harassment in the workforce increases productivity and employee retention.
Sexual harassment prevention training engages employees to take ownership in creating a workforce free of harassment and gives them the tools necessary to make sound judgments regarding appropriate workplace conduct.