Workplace harassment training refers to the education of executives, managers, and employees at all levels of a business to prevent incidents of workplace harassment from occurring. In the United States, federal and some state laws protect employees against unlawful harassment. Workplace harassment refers to verbal discrimination or unwelcome physical conduct that can occur. It can include bullying, intimidation, sexual jokes, racial remarks, and other methods of discrimination that creates an offensive work environment or interferes with an individual's ability to do his or her job.
To prevent a hostile workplace, most employers issue formal policies at the initial hiring of an employee. These policies are normally distributed through an employee handbook. Alternatively, employers may require employees sign a form stating that they understand and are aware of the company's workplace discrimination policy. In the US, some states also require that employers have a policy specifically covering sexual harassment.
A harassment policy will typically define what constitutes workplace-based harassment. Generally, information on how to make a complaint and who a complaint should be made to is provided. The policy should also express that employees who make a complaint will be free from retaliation. To effectively address workplace intimidation, policies usually address termination or other consequences for harassing employees. This information is often posted in the workplace to demonstrate that the employer has zero tolerance for harassment.
To emphasize strategies for preventing, identifying, and reporting on sexual harassment, federal laws in the US advise periodic training sessions. In some jurisdictions, state laws may also require workplace harassment training. For example, California law requires that employers with 50 or more employees provide two hours of sexual harassment training to supervisory employees every two years. Harassment can happen among general employees and supervisors, so best practices encourage employers to also train non-management employees.
Typically, workplace harassment training methods include some combination of online courses, videos, seminars, case studies, role playing, and newsletters. Managers should receive specific instructions of their duty upon receiving a complaint, and on maintaining confidentiality. Customized training programs can be used to meet federal and state guidelines, when applicable. Additionally, training material should be prepared by legal experts to guarantee compliance with the law.
Employers who use vague workplace harassment policies or who do not use workplace harassment training methods increase their chances of litigation. Being able to document workplace harassment standards will aid employers in showing proof that employees are aware of a company's policy if a lawsuit does occur. It will also help maintain workplace productivity and avoid costly lawyer fees and punitive damages.