Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Risk Management
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I have been a Human Resources leader for a couple of decades, turned neutral workplace investigator, and educator around sexual harassment and discrimination issues in the workplace. I have experienced the many practical challenges we all have around integrated sound training, education, and solid risk management practices to help protect the businesses we represent and also help employees who count on us.
The EEOC recently published its Fiscal Year 2019 statistics, showing us record recoveries around sexual harassment type claims. In wake of the #MeToo Movement, it has become increasingly common for many businesses to be challenged with concerns raised by employees of not being treated fairly. I have had more conversations than I can count with companies that are essentially looking to “check the box” when they need to, with CEOs sometimes being hesitant to provide any budget for this training.
So, where does this leave us as HR professionals?
My recommendation is to begin with a full analysis of why your business should be training your employees. We should consider many issues and below are just a few I’d like to highlight with some basic reasoning for my line of thinking:
1) Risk Management – practically speaking, right or wrong, this is the predominant reason many employers implement training. Sadly, it often happens AFTER the organization had legal issues around EEO related matters.
Special Note: If your boss is resistant to spending money on preventative training (thinking, “if we get sued, we are going to have to pay anyway”), consider the following. First, without training, your legal argument and potential defenses are weakened. Simply put, you have a weaker case to defend yourselves without the training. Further, even if you are going to “settle” a claim, the stronger your potential defense, the likely the settlement will cost you less. Additionally, good training may avoid these issues altogether!
2) “Free” v “Paid” Services – Many companies look for the “cheapest” options. Some states even provide training. Other employers lean on “free” services provided by their PEO, payroll services or brokers. Remember the reasons why you are doing training and the adage that “nothing is ever free” and “you get what you pay for.”
3) Productivity – I am sure some of us have had conversations where the argument against training isn’t the hard cost, rather the soft cost of having employees take time from work for the training itself. How many lost people hours occur when someone is subjected to inappropriate behavior through gossip, longer breaks, absenteeism, turnover, etc, etc? I have seen companies have their employees go back to work and talk about effective training, reinforcing the education itself… this is invaluable!
4) Reputation – Are our customers more likely, less likely, or neutral on doing business with a company that has a reputation for these types of issues? Are job seekers more or less likely to go to your organization if they perceive your organization takes these matters seriously? These are just a few of the many reasons training is now crucial more than ever for a successful business.
While the changing social, political and legal landscapes are evolving quickly and significantly, effective training may bring some additional responsibilities on human resources, however, in the long run, it will make human resource professionals’ work lives easier.
Learn how to drive change for your business today by contacting our team.