Anti-harassment Training & Workplace Harassment Training
Of the many sets of laws and regulations throughout the world with which companies need to comply, anti-harassment and workplace harassment stand among the most important. Breaches of these rules can lead to severe reputational damage, as well as very expensive financial penalties.
In the UK, harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act of 2010, and in addition to this Act, regulations enacted by the European Union apply.
Anti-Harassment and Workplace Harassment Compliance Training are essential for all organisations that need to safeguard themselves and their employees in this field.
Harassment can take many forms. Generally speaking, it is any form of verbal, visual or physical conduct that can create or contribute to an intimidating, offensive or otherwise hostile working environment. Whether this harassment takes the form of face to face confrontation, the insidious spreading of damaging rumours, telephone conversations, emails or other means of communication, employment tribunals and civil courts in the UK take allegations seriously, and inflict severe penalties on companies and individuals who are found guilty of breaching the regulations.
The same attitude applies to discrimination. If an employee can demonstrate to an employment tribunal, often with the assistance of The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), that he or she has been treated unfairly because of age, sex, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief or sexual orientation, that complainant may expect to receive substantial damages, and the organisation that has fallen foul of these regulations will suffer damage to its reputation as well.
Any company working in the UK needs to guard against harassment in the workplace, and the best way for it to do so is to ensure that all its employees are properly trained in the subject.
What Is Harassment?
Video: Definition of harassment. Examples of real-life stories that illustrate the impact of harassment.
Interactive Screen: What harassment includes and when harassment becomes actionable.
Scenario: Jokes based on an individual’s nationality.
Key Learning: Even if someone doesn’t intend any harm, if the target of the jokes is hurt by the jokes and this is happening on a regular basis, this could create a hostile work environment.
Scenario: Risqué e-mails that sometimes contain jokes on religion and sexuality.
Key Learning: Jokes that offend some colleagues could contribute to an offensive, hostile work environment.
Scenario: Friendly conversation offering dating advice.
Key Learning: Intent and perception are key to determining if a statement could be considered harassment.
What Is Discrimination?
Interactive Screen: Definition of discrimination. Examples of real-life stories that illustrate the impact of discrimination. Discrimination is never acceptable.
Interactive Screen: Laws and enforcement. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). State-Specific Laws.
Scenario: Time off for a religious holiday.
Key Learning: Religious accommodation laws allow employers to engage in discussion about these kinds of issues.
Scenario: Promoting when pregnant.
Key Learning: It is never acceptable to discriminate against anyone because of pregnancy.
Scenario: Age considerations when promoting someone.
Key Learning: You cannot decide against promoting or hiring someone because they are too old.
What Is Retaliation?
Interactive Screen: Retaliation, protected activity, and adverse actions. Retaliation is never acceptable.
Interactive Screen: Real-life examples of retaliation and the impact they have.
Text & Image Screen: Definition of a “covered individual.”
Scenario: Senior colleague verbally abusing a junior colleague.
Key Learning: If you witness harassment or discrimination, you should report what you see and hear without fear of retaliation.
Scenario: What constitutes retaliation?
Impact of Harassment & Discrimination
Scenario: Mocking over religious dress continues.
Key Learning: When the perpetrator doesn’t change their behaviour, it’s best to report the incident before the situation escalates.
Scenario: Wider impact that discrimination has in the workplace.
Key Learning: Discrimination may cause a colleague to become withdrawn and less engaged in the workplace. This could have an adverse effect on the workforce, as it may make other colleagues uncomfortable and could cause a divide in working teams and groups.
Laws, Protected Groups, & Types of Harassment
Interactive Screen: Federal discrimination laws. Who’s protected? What’s included?
Interactive Screen: State laws. Examples: California, New York, Washington DC, Massachusetts, New Jersey.
Interactive Screen: What do we mean by protected groups? Examples of protected groups. Types of discrimination.
Interactive Screen: Types of harassment. Quid pro quo. Hostile work environment.
Interactive Screen: Affirmative defense – under federal law, an employer can avoid liability for discrimination if it can show three things.
Scenario: Drafting a job advertisement without discriminating against any protected groups.
Key Learning: Discriminatory conduct is prohibited in all aspects of the employment process, including recruitment.
Scenario: Candidate for an interview is in a wheelchair.
Key Learning: Unless it causes an employer undue hardship, refusing to accommodate an applicant or employee with a disability is discrimination.
Interactive Screen: Definition of sexual harassment. It doesn’t have to be sexual in nature – could include offensive remarks about a person’s sex.
Interactive Screen: What constitutes sexual harassment? Verbal harassment, nonverbal (visual) harassment, physical harassment, teasing, and offhand comments.
Interactive Screen: Does it have to be sexual? Who’s impacted? What does the law say? What is a hostile environment? What is quid pro quo? Are there specific laws to protect transgender people?
Scenario: A drunken proposal while at a work conference.
Key Learning: Just because an employee is not at work, they may not engage in inappropriate conduct that would otherwise be impermissible in the workplace itself.
Scenario: Spreading rumours about a colleague’s sexuality.
Key Learning: Offensive comments about a person’s sexuality are harassment, even if the victim doesn’t hear.
Scenario: Personal history interfering in a promotion decision.
Key Learning: Must have solid reasons for reaching a hiring decision.
Scenario: Same-sex harassment – one colleague sending flirty emails and sticky notes.
Key Learning: Conduct constitutes harassment because the conduct is unwelcome and it has unreasonably interfered with their colleague’s work.
Scenario: Inappropriate physical touching.
Key Learning: Conduct may be considered harassment if it is unwelcome and it makes the victim uncomfortable.
Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity Harassment
Scenario: Hiring a new team member who is in a same-sex relationship.
Key Learning: You cannot treat individuals differently because of their sexual orientation or preference.
Scenario: Whispers about gender reassignment.
Key Learning: When someone at work goes through a gender transition, it’s important to have in-person training with the employee’s managers and the colleagues who work directly with the transitioning employee.
Intent vs Perception
Interactive Screen: The difference between intent and perception. The burden of proof. The importance of perception.
Scenario: Proof of general discrimination.
Key Learning: Employees who assert discrimination claims must show that they suffered an adverse employment action because of their protected class or trait. Proof of this “causal connection” is at the heart of employment claims.
Scenario: Proof of age discrimination.
Key Learning: It’s important that a manager can show that they hired a candidate because the candidate was the best candidate for the job.
Scenario: Legitimate non-discriminatory reasons for not offering a promotion.
Key Learning: If required, you must be able to present a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason why a candidate didn’t get promoted.
Scenario: Perception of a joke about nationality.
Key Learning: You might not intend a comment to be offensive, but it may be perceived in that way. The impact of a perceived offence can be given greater weighting in law than the original intent.
Interactive Screen: Explain the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Define disability. ADAAA (Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act). Applicability and enforcement.
Interactive Screen: Evaluating performance. Essential job functions. Marginal job functions.
Interactive Screen: Explain reasonable accommodations. Qualified individuals. Undue hardship.
Interactive Screen: Examples of the ADA in action.
Text & Image Screen: Outline the steps required when an accommodation is needed or requested.
Scenario: Hiring and the essential job functions.
Key Learning: You can only ask questions that you would lawfully ask any applicant. You cannot ask a person with a disability questions that you would not ask any other applicant.
Scenario: Downturn in productivity due to a medical condition.
Key Learning: Both federal and state laws restrict an employer’s ability to make disability-related inquiries. All discussions about reasonable accommodation should include HR.
Scenario: Accommodation request from employee with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Key Learning: Reasonable accommodations vary based on the individual circumstances. Normally, only the manager needs to know the nature of the accommodation and that the accommodation has been approved. And remember, privacy laws and company policy protect the confidentiality of personal information, including medical details.
The workplace needs to be a safe environment for everybody, and all employees should be on their guard against any behaviour that threatens its safety. They need to know how to react when they encounter hostile, harassing or bullying attitudes in their colleagues, and they must be able to report any such incidents without fear of reprisal. They should also understand that they have a legal, moral and ethical obligation to remain alert to any inappropriate workplace conduct. The immediate victim of this behaviour is not the only person who will suffer; an atmosphere in which harassment and bullying can continue unchallenged will affect the entire company, as it will lead to a stressful and unhappy working environment, which will damage staff retention and productivity.
Employees need to be trained so that they can identify and recognize harassment and discrimination, even when it takes comparatively subtle forms, and they must also be familiar with the correct procedures for reporting any such incidents. When those procedures have been drawn up by members of staff, who are therefore aware of the regulations, there will be a clear audit trail in any event of harassment and discrimination, and, should a case be brought to an employment tribunal or a civil or criminal court, a company that has trained its employees in compliance with anti-harassment and bullying in the workplace will have a good defence against the charges it faces.