More than a year after the #MeToo movement got started, there are those who are thinking to themselves, “Well, it’s nice to know that the whole sexual harassment situation is now taken care of.” But that kind of thinking is a huge mistake. Social media movements can be surprisingly fickle, and all too often fade from the media spotlight and peter out entirely. The good news is that it’s not too late to keep the energy of the #MeToo movement going by consciously building on it and extending it with real action in workplaces across the nation and the world, including harassment training.
Companies Need Harassment Training in Spite of #MeToo
There has been a serious and significant uptick in sexual harassment complaints being filed at both the national and state levels. More people are definitely feeling empowered by the #MeToo movement to speak out – but that doesn’t necessarily mean the company they work for is ready, willing or able to take real action to prevent harassment from happening in the first place.
While lots of rank-and-file employees and managers are “on board” with the broad outlines of the #MeToo movement, if that support doesn’t extend all the way to the top of the organization, it’s unlikely that anything will change for the better regarding harassment in the workplace.
Harassment Training can Reduce Financial Liabilities
One way to make sure that the higher-ups get the message is to translate it into terms they understand – money. According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “The EEOC recovered nearly $70 million for the victims of sexual harassment through administrative enforcement and litigation in FY 2018, up from $47.5 million in FY 2017” (source). And that’s just the cost to companies of EEOC lawsuits, not all the litigation brought by private attorneys on behalf of individual victims of workplace sexual harassment. The cost of potential litigation should be a motivating factor for company leadership to take up the mantle of preventing harassment in the workplace.
There are also still lots of incidents of harassment that go unreported – as much as 70% by some estimates. Many employees choose to quit rather than pursue their case through official legal challenges, which means company leadership doesn’t even know how much unchecked harassment has hurt their company by forcing great employees out the door. Even when employees don’t quit and stick it out, you can bet that any harassment taking place is negatively impacting their productivity and overall morale in that department.
A company’s reputation can also be damaged by negative publicity around unchecked sexual harassment, as has happened with companies such as Mike Isabella’s restaurant group, Winn Resorts and even Fox News. They’ve all seen falling advertising revenue, sales, stock prices and consumer loyalty thanks to harassment publicity. Failing to take action around harassment is something company leadership can no longer afford to ignore, and do so at their own peril as long as the #MeToo movement continues to build and strengthen.
Harassment Training is a Starting Point, Not an Ending Point
There are lots of trainings out there that go over the basics – legal definitions of harassment and what constitutes unlawful conduct. But those trainings, while necessary, are not sufficient protection against potential litigation and large financial judgements against a company. Effective harassment prevention policies and programs must be carefully crafted, implemented with care, and effectively disseminated. In other words, compliance trainings in and of themselves won’t get the job done if they aren’t part of a larger anti-harassment effort on the part of employers.
In 2016 the EEOC published a report from its Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace. It is an eye-opening report that provides not only an introduction to the landscape of harassment in the workplace, but a kind of road map for what it takes to stop and prevent harassment from happening – and harassment training is just one piece of the puzzle.
One item that will help your company get serious about harassment training is having the right learning management system (LMS) for more effectively managing, distributing and tracking your training and learning efforts. The eLeaP LMS is an easy-to-use, web-based platform for creating and managing your company’s learning and training content. When your company chooses eLeaP, you’ll also have access to our robust library of training courses in a variety of subject categories, including 60 different HR Compliance courses, many of which are focused on the topic of harassment. Sign up for a 30-day free trial to find out what eLeaP can do for your company!