What are the key learnings we can get from Compliance Training on Harassment and Discrimination?

What Is Harassment in the Workplace?

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 emails 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?

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?

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?
Key Learning: Any targeted action taken in response to being reported may be considered an act of retaliation.

Scenario: Action to take if subjected to retaliatory practices.
Key Learning: Speak to the individual. If actions continue, report them.

The Impact of Harassment & Discrimination

Scenario: Overhearing two colleagues mocking another colleague about religious dress.
Key Learning: In some cases the perpetrators of inappropriate behavior don’t believe they’re doing anything wrong. If you feel comfortable, speak to the perpetrators and ask them to stop.

Scenario: Mocking over religious dress continues.
Key Learning: When the perpetrator doesn’t change their behavior, 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Key Learning: Discrimination may cause a colleague to become withdrawn and less engaged in the workplace.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, and Types of Harassment

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.

Scenario: Consequences of rejecting a candidate because they might become pregnant.
Key Learning: Pregnancy is a class that is protected under both federal and state law. Marital status is a class that is protected under certain state anti-discrimination laws.

Sexual Harassment

Scenario: A drunken proposal while at a work conference.
Key Learning: Just because an employee is not at work, does not mean they may engage in inappropriate conduct that would otherwise be impermissible in the workplace itself.

Scenario: Spreading rumors 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 another flirty emails and sticky notes.
Key Learning: Conduct constitutes harassment because the conduct is unwelcome and it has unreasonably interfered with a colleague’s work.

Scenario: Inappropriate physical touching.
Key Learning: Conduct may be considered harassment if it is unwelcomed 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

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 they were 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, non-discriminatory 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 offense can be given greater weighting in law than the original intent.


Scenario: Hiring and 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.

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