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Research shows sexual harassment training may be counterproductive

Sexual harassment in the workplace can be highly disruptive to productivity and emotionally taxing for those who are subjected to it. Federal and state laws, of course, forbid sexual harassment in the workplace and businesses are well aware of the costs that can result from sexual harassment complaints and litigation.

Anxious to avoid liability and improve work culture, many corporations have taken a proactive approach to the problem and required sexual harassment education and awareness training for employees. Unfortunately, recent research shows that such efforts are not necessarily effective

It isn’t exactly clear why sexual harassment training tends not to be effective, but there are most likely multiple reasons for this state of affairs. Aside from the fact that sexual harassment training probably tends to highlight and activate the attitudes that lead to sexual harassment, it also doesn’t typically do a great job of addressing the selective nature of sexual harassment complaints and the gray areas regarding what constitutes sexual harassment.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s, sexual harassment can involve a wide variety of behaviors, including behaviors that are not of a sexual nature. Offensive remarks about a person’s sex, for instance, can constitute sexual harassment. The gray is seen in the EEOC’s statement that simple teasing, offhand comments, or non-serious isolated incidents are not illegal unless and until they create a hostile or offensive work environment or when such activity results in an adverse employment decision.

Where exactly is the line drawn, though? In our next post, we’ll continue looking at this topic and how an experienced attorney can help an individual who believes he or she has been subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace.

Source: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Sexual Harassment, Accessed June 1, 2016. 

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