#MeToo and the Onslaught of Sexual Harassment Training Requests

Long about mid-December when you couldn’t turn on the news without hearing about the next case of pervasive sexual harassment in every facet of the working world, our phone and inbox started blowing up with requests for sexual harassment training and training resources.

Almost every HR leader was given direction from the C-Suite and/or self-directed to try to take the bull by the horns and “train” people on sexual harassment before they got hit with a claim in their workplace.

Whereas I think driving a culture through behavioral actions is the best way to keep sexual harassment or any other form of harassment at bay (and training is just one part of this equation), there are some rules of thumb for “good” sexual harassment (or any form of harassment) training.

  1. Help people understand the laws behind sexual harassment to include the why and how of them.  Note:  Whereas you need to explain this so people can make sense of the precedent and legal ramifications, the more important issue is helping people understand and know when things are just plain wrong and inappropriate because they are wrong and inappropriate ways to treat people not because you might get sued.
  2. Help people understand the two types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo (“this for that”) and hostile work environments.  Most people have an easier time understanding and identifying quid pro quo, but most of the challenges today fall in the category of hostile work environments. Help people understand the factors that create a hostile work environment including actions that are unwanted, repeated, intimidating, hostile and offensive.  This should also include a discussion about the reasonable person standard and intent.  More on intent in a later post, but basically just because someone didn’t “intend” to be intimidating, hostile or offensive doesn’t mean they are not guilty of violating the law.
  3. Help people know what should be done if they feel they have been or are being harassed or have witnessed harassment.
  4. Help leaders know how behave if harassment is brought to their attention. This includes how to conduct an investigation.
  5. Understand and implement company policies and procedures related to harassment (number 3 and 4 should be interwoven with this).
  6. Apply learning with a case study in a small group format.

I have found that the case study portion of the training we do to be the most valuable.  This is because most instances we deal with in the workplace aren’t Harvey Weinstein blatant.  They are shades of gray, and it takes thoughtful discernment and investigation by people driven leaders to understand and then solve the problems.  The case study gets people thinking and talking in a way that leads to better discernment and application of the principles learned.

If you are in need of free resources related to sexual harassment training, here are some good videos to watch:

Video 1

Video 2

Also helpful, from HR Magazine: How to Investigate Sexual Harassment Allegations.


How have you handled the need to educate people on sexual harassment in your workplace?





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Mary Ila Ward