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Sexual harassment has been a heavily discussed topic in the latter half of 2017, with various public figures coming under fire for past behavior. The #MeToo social media campaign that went viral earlier this year took many by surprise, revealing that despite the many initiatives businesses now have in place, sexual harassment is very present in the modern workplace.
As an ABC News poll revealed, more than half of American women have experienced unwanted inappropriate sexual advances from men. Three in ten of those women said those advances came from a coworker, while one-fourth said they came from a superior or someone in a similar career-influencing position.
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Workplace Training Programs
Despite the prevalence of workplace-related harassment, a surprising number of businesses fail to have policies and training in place to prevent it. This is especially true among small businesses, with only 67 percent of small employers having practices in place to protect employees and reduce their own risks.
Sexual harassment has a long history in office environments, but it wasn’t until 1981 that regulatory authorities officially recognized it as a problem. In 1981, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released guidelines specific to dealing with unwanted sexual advances in the workplace. The document cited a survey that found more than 70 percent of women had been subjected to sexual harassment related to their employment. Over time, the courts gradually begin to define sexual harassment as a form of gender discrimination as outlined in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
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The Need for Training
No business wants to defend itself against a sexual harassment lawsuit. But, if an employee takes legal action, your business could be at least partially responsible, especially if the alleged victim reported the issue to a manager or human resources representative. But, long before attorneys get involved, businesses suffer when they don’t take preventive measures. A documented sexual harassment policy establishes from the start that every employee is aware that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.
In addition to policies, many businesses opt to provide training that addresses every form of inappropriate behavior, including sexual harassment, discrimination, and other types of behavior that create a hostile work environment. When a business has these policies in place, it reduces liability while also showing workers that leaders are doing everything possible to keep them safe. This will have a positive impact on overall workplace morale, which will improve productivity and keep your business on track.
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Types of Training
Since 2013, Google has invested in unconscious bias training, which the company has used to train more than 60,000 employees. The company’s training is inspired by studies that have shown that awareness of our own unconscious biases can help reverse them. In the interest of helping its own customers, Google makes its videos and self-paced online training available to everyone, inviting them to conduct their own workplace training using these tools.
Microsoft also relies heavily on unconscious bias training, with coursework that includes introducing students to unconscious bias and helping them understand how it influences behavior and impacts an organization. This course is also available online through an e-course.
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Another exciting course provider is Equal Reality, which uses the power of virtual reality (VR) to help employees experience various points of view in a realistic fashion. This includes seeing life from the point of view of various genders, of someone who is disabled, and of someone who is enduring unwanted sexual advances.
When businesses take a proactive stance regarding sexual harassment, everyone benefits. With so many third-party training options available, companies don’t have to spend a fortune developing their own inclusion training. Be aware of the various types of training available and choose the one that works best for your unique business environment.