Rhana Natour Rhana Natour. In the last five weeks, six lawmakers have been forced to resign or abandon plans to seek re-election after being accused of sexually inappropriate behavior. As part of its response, Congress approved legislation in November requiring all members to undergo mandatory sexual harassment training, joining a growing list of institutions, including Uber, Fox News, and NBC, that have doubled down on sexual harassment training. And the most recent study on the subject was 15 years old.
An important question now: companies respond to the MeToo movement by pouring more money into trainings or will they focus on developing other solutions?
A survey released this fall by the Association for Talent Development shows that 71 percent of human resource professionals said their company conducts some form of sexual harassment training.
Emtrain is a company that creates online trainings for Netflix, Pinterest and Yelp.
Photo courtesy of Emtrain. Sexual harassment trainings often take the form of online programs that employees complete on their own.
In some cases, employees are asked to gauge inappropriate behavior. One exercise by Emtrain, a company that creates online trainings for Netflix, Pinterest and Yelp, directs employees to color code a series of comments — green is for respectful, red for offensive.
In others, employees are informed about the consequences of sexual harassment. In one video, for example, a female narrator discusses the toll sexual harassment can take on a company.
Trainings are often followed by a quiz. Trainings are also done in-person, often in small groups led by a lawyer. Segal says these live sessions are more engaging. Then there are the trainings specifically designed for accused harassers.
Typically, these are conducted for offenses that are not considered severe enough for immediate termination.
Discussions focus on the specific behavior, triggers and tools for preventing it. If the intent was nothing like the impact, we go back to intent versus impact.
Companies have wrestled for decades with how to deliver such trainings, ever since the EEOC released its first guidelines on sexual harassment in The guidelines came as the government first declared sexual harassment a form of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Advice included documenting the incident and telling someone about it. The court first ruled that sexual harassment was an illegal form of discrimination in the case Savings Bank v.
But by the mids, anti-harassment training was being increasingly used as a form of legal protection for companies, Tippett said. Her analysis shows that around that time, the self-help advice had all but disappeared from the curriculum, and harassment was being largely framed as a productivity drain and bad for business.
She suspects that as more people adopted sexual harassment training, the trainers determined that their employers — not the accusers — were their primary clients, and changed the curriculum accordingly.
It was after this decision that courts began to give employers credit for simply adopting trainings — regardless of their effectiveness, said Lauren Edelman, a law professor at University of California at Berkeley. Companies should focus on putting more women in management positions or leadership roles, he added. Trainings themselves are partly based on the premise that employee education can prevent or at least curb sexual harassment.
But Louise Fitzgerald, a psychology professor and sexual harassment researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says that ignorance of what constitutes harassment is not the problem. The real solution, Fitzgerald says, is not a quick fix.
That is slow, and it is a lot of work. It is also difficult to determine what would convince a current or would-be harasser to not engage in harassing behavior, Tippett says. But when a training session does manage to connect with employees, the result can be powerful. He apologized to the woman in front of a teary-eyed class.
There is some indication that in light of the Metoo movement, some companies are improving the training process. Fox News said in a statement to the NewsHour that the network conducted an anonymous employee survey with 90 percent showing a Sexual harassment in the workplace stories of miracles understanding of workplace conduct and standards.
After high-level misconduct scandals at NBC and Fox, both companies have switched from online trainings to required training in person. PBS for the first time this year is also requiring training for all employees. It was previously only required for new employees and managers. But evaluating these trainings is difficult. One recent call was from a university concerned that a professor would not meet with female students during office hours with the door closed. In a later tweet he wrote: Not meeting alone helps avoid those risks.
To address this particular issue, Segal has expanded his trainings to include a program called Safe Mentoring, which teaches men how to mentor younger women without harassing them. Restricting men and women from meeting alone is dangerous territory, Tippett says: It is no more acceptable if it is a woman. Businesses instead should be striving for equal opportunity, she said.