What does our federal government think about existing anti-harassment training? They say it’s time for change too.
In December 2018, United States Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), published a report detailing issues of workplace harassment across the country and recommendations of how to reduce and prevent the problem. The report contains many items for legislative consideration by Congress, but it also identifies and highlights proactive measures that employers should take to stay ahead of the problem.
This Senate committee report identifies the inadequate aims of existing trainings. It further describes the notable absence of truly innovative resources. Here are two important excerpts related to private sector employers:
Employers in a number of industries have access to presentations and other forms of training through their employment practice liability insurer. Trainings conducted by insurance companies, who may be liable for any payouts as a result of a finding of employer wrongdoing, may naturally focus on more on avoiding liability than on best practices for reducing or preventing harassment from the perspective of a worker. And many H.R. professionals noted the lack of external training resources that did not take a legal/compliance approach.While compliance-focused trainings may be effective in educating workers about the law, EEOC’s Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace cited several studies showing that training may not change attitudes toward harassment or behaviors to prevent harassment from occurring in the first place, especially if these trainings are conducted without context or follow-up.
One theme raised consistently in conversations with the Democratic staff—whether with an association, worker, advocate, or company—was that establishing a workplace culture that values equal opportunity and does not tolerate discrimination of any kind is a critical component of combatting the epidemic of workplace harassment. Strong trainings and policies are important prevention tools, but without a robust culture of inclusivity, workers may not trust the policies in place or take trainings seriously.
These direct quotations from pages 24-25 of the Senate report highlight the need for a new approach to preventing harassment. The best way to prevent the problem is to address and uproot its most fundamental causes. Therefore, we have to reorient our goal from avoiding legal liability to creating thriving environments where every person is inherently respected.
So long as we continue pushing the same failed training approach of the last three decades on American workers, we will never accomplish the real goal of preventingharassment and, more importantly, growing closer to true equality. Our approach must match our goal: it is time to get active about equality.
Equality For All,
Brian J. Sullivan