Bullying was never just a high school problem. Invariably, abusive conduct grows up and becomes a problem for employers.
While California is still the only state that requires companies to address abusive conduct, creating a respectful workplace should be a priority for every company. That means providing training not just on the effects of abusive conduct, but on the kind of culture and environment that allows bullying behavior to happen.
It’s important that your HR team knows the signs of abusive conduct – a decrease in job satisfaction, lower morale, higher absenteeism, and lost productivity. However, knowing what actions to take to address bullying behavior can be much more difficult.
Abusive conduct is only one type of harassment of which your employees must be aware. California’s AB2053 refers to this kind of behavior as “malicious conduct,” that “a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests.” Similar to sexual harassment, a single act is not abusive “unless especially severe and egregious.” It is the severity and pervasiveness of bullying behavior that make it so important to address. Here’s what that can look like:
With a definition like that – broad, and leaving a lot of room for interpretation – your harassment prevention training can easily come under scrutiny, should an employee file charges for harassment or workplace bullying. It’s vital that you train employees and supervisors on the AB2053, and that you start doing so now.
Projections’ landmark harassment training has been keeping companies in full compliance with all training requirements since 1999. “The Respectful Workplace” eLearning is now available in versions for both managers and employees. This training meets your company’s needs in every state in which you operate and provides the consistency your company needs. More information on harassment prevention training can be found here.
No matter what products you sell or what industry you’re in, harassment prevention must be a top priority in keeping both your company and your employees safe. What works and what you need to include in that training is changing rapidly. Here is what you need to know regarding harassment prevention training in 2019.
The movement known as #metoo began in October of 2017, and the repercussions are still being felt. During the last several years, both individuals and companies have become more aware of harassment and reporting has increased dramatically both in and out of the workplace. People are more aware of the many specific forms of harassment. Protected classes include including sex, gender, disability, race, religion and age.
According to SHRM, emphasis on workplace harassment training should focus on prevention. As a manager or human resources professional, it’s your responsibility to take the necessary steps to provide the most effective harassment prevention training program possible. It’s crucial to train employees effectively to prevent any type of harassment from happening. If harassment does occur, it’s necessary that employees at all levels understand what to do and take the correct course of action.
The New Jersey Business and Industry Association reports that a Gallup poll shows both men and women take sexual harassment much more seriously than they did 20 years ago. The majority of individuals now see it as a major problem. Your employees are more sensitive to what is and isn’t considered appropriate behavior.
Along with increased sensitivity and changed perspectives, however, there has also been more confusion. Many employees are often uncertain regarding what exactly constitutes harassment, what type of language or behavior is acceptable in the workplace and exactly how to handle harassment accusations. This makes an effective training program more important than ever.
It’s necessary to understand what the different requirements are in each state and how employers with employees in multiple locations can comply. Right now there are only five states that mandate or have requirements regarding sexual harassment training. California, Connecticut, New York, Delaware and Maine have passed a variety of legislation for training employees. If your company maintains facilties in California and Illinois, for example, all employees should be trained according to the most stringent standards.
This means you’ll stay compliant while keeping all employees on the same page. Employers also need to go beyond basic legal compliance. It’s necessary to cultivate a culture of respect in the workplace. Training shouldn’t just focus on a checklist of unacceptable behaviors. It should focus on building civility and an environment where employees feel comfortable speaking out.
It’s imperative that training addresses the recent shifts in culture. It’s not only important to understand culture in our society, but to understand and change the culture in the workplace. This means that management must take a proactive approach by educating current employees and immediately training all new hires. Workforce states that training must involve much more than simply watching a video and checking a to-do box. You must create a culture at the highest levels of management and effective training provided on a fairly regular basis.
Finally, whatever training method you use, make sure there is an evaluation process in place. You need to understand what’s working and what’s not so modifications can be made for future training. Harassment prevention training is critically important to not only prevent costly lawsuits and maintain a company’s reputation, but for building a respectful and positive work environment.
With strong belief that every company can become an employer of choice, the team at Projections has been helping companies build better leaders and improve employee relations for over 4 decades. The Respectful Workplace, is a powerful and effective eLearning program designed to not only prevent harassment but help companies create a respectful and inclusive workplace.
For decades, companies have been working to protect themselves from liability by offering harassment prevention training in the workplace. Multiple states now mandate training on the topic. Many even spell out what must be covered, who must receive the training, and how long the training should be. But if your goal is simply to be in compliance with the legal requirements, you may be missing the point.
To create behavioral change at a cultural level, harassment prevention training has to be delivered in a variety of ways. Learners need to hear and see not only what is and is not acceptable, but answer questions and make decisions about what they should do. A well-planned and executed harassment prevention program creates an inclusive workplace where everyone not only feels welcome, but is able to be their most productive, most engaged self.
Many currently available harassment awareness programs are brief and leave the employee with little to think about beyond contact information for HR. True harassment prevention requires a broader cultural shift to have a lasting impact on the workplace. Effective training needs to emphasize that it’s the responsibility of all employees to take an active role in not only preventing harassment in all its forms, but in creating a respectful workplace.
It’s your company’s job to make sure every team member understands that maintaining a respectful workplace is their responsibility. It’s more than a legal issue to be avoided; it’s about feeling empowered to take action when they are confronted with bad behavior at any level. Effective training programs work when every employee feels invested in promoting a respectful workplace. But how do you do this? And why haven’t past programs been able to make it happen?
If your harassment prevention training is led by members of your HR team in a small group or “town hall” setting, you may already be setting your efforts up for failure. When employees don’t feel safe within that space, they can easily shut down and fail to internalize the information being provided. If there’s a perception that HR exists to protect the rights of the company over individual employees, then the training will be viewed as self-serving and will never succeed in creating behavioral change.
To get around this perception, some companies choose to bring in live trainers to teach harassment prevention. This sort of environment provides a neutral third party, which can add value – but the training can also be “dismissed” for the same reason if company representatives don’t seem to be actively endorsing it.
Purchasing harassment prevention training videos can be an excellent option, blending the endorsement of the company with the “expert” knowledge of a third party. But if the legal requirements for harassment training change in the states in which your company operates, you’ll need updates to those videos, quickly.
Today, interactive e-learning can provide consistent, relevant messaging that can boost engagement, reinforcing the needs of adult learners
With a diverse workforce, many companies today find it increasingly difficult to create memorable and actionable training programs for employees and managers. Creating two entirely separate programs – one for line employees and one for supervisors – is costly and time-consuming.
Some states mandate additional training for leaders and knowing what to teach each group can be difficult. Many companies choose to adopt a “one size fits all” approach and use the same content regardless of the audience, but training for supervisors, such as how to address, report or investigate a harassment claim can be inappropriate for frontline staff.
The first step in creating effective harassment prevention training for today’s workforce is recognizing that your supervisors and leaders need a targeted curriculum that addresses the specific challenges they may encounter. Generic content that merely teaches the legal aspects of harassment is not going to engage that audience or teach them actionable skills that empower them.
Different states in which you operate may have specific requirements regarding the content you must provide. For example, in California, companies must also address workplace bullying (Abusive Conduct). Make sure your employee curriculum touches on each of these requirements, and make them engaging and interactive. Try role-playing scenarios, depicting common office interactions. Make sure your both employees and leaders have an opportunity to practice the skills they learn, as reinforcement of the concepts happens not only when they see something – but when they DO something.
Remember that it’s not just about victims and perpetrators. Your company must empower bystanders and victims of third-party harassment to understand even nuanced situations and take the right action. Creating effective harassment prevention training today isn’t just about staying within the letter of the law – it’s about protecting every employee and giving them the environment they need to be productive and meet the company’s goals.
Putting together a harassment prevention training program requires a delicate balance. Employees must be made aware of the law and their responsibilities in the workplace. In the past, some have argued that these programs emphasized employment law so heavily that they taught people how to “get away with” harassing behavior and not get fired. Some studies have even shown that the wrong training can make harassment issues worse.
The tone and language of your training must include tolerance and respect for all coworkers, regardless of any protected class. Your harassment prevention will need to acknowledge that harassment occurs despite everyone’s best efforts and that your company is committed to developing processes to address issues.
Above all else, your harassment prevention program must openly demonstrate what all types of harassment look like and what a hostile working environment feels like. Only through genuine understanding of these challenges can employees and managers hope to make lasting changes.
As your company begins to work toward creating a respectful workplace, you may begin to see changes. People may be more open to one another’s ideas. They may become more productive. Fewer reports to HR may mean more time spent on taking care of all employees. Your respectful workplace can even create greater trust between employees and management, as everyone understands their roles in preventing harassment.
Being regarded as an employer of choice begins with an environment where employees feel safe and valued. Understanding the different types of harassment is one vital element in that effort. But recognizing – and teaching your leaders to recognize – the most common types of harassment in the workplace can also protect your company from liability.
Here are the five most common types of harassment that we regularly see. While each has its own unique characteristics, they all damage a company’s culture and counteract the idea of a respectful workplace. As you read through these descriptions, think about how they might occur in your workplace and how you can train your teams to recognize and respond to each type of harassment.
Discriminatory harassment in the workplace describes a situation in which an employee feels attacked for belonging to a protected class. Federally protected classes include race, color, religion, gender, and age as well national origin, disability or veteran status.
This type of workplace harassment may also involve someone’s disability, age, sexual orientation or gender identity. Discriminatory harassment can take place everywhere from the hiring process to the shop floor. If one employee makes disparaging or intimidating remarks to another based on any protected class status, your company can wind up in court.
This means if a supervisor loses patience with an older employee for not understanding technology and gives that employee fewer hours rather than providing additional training, you could find yourself in court for age discrimination.
Quid pro quo is another type of harassment in the workplace, and it’s often sexual in nature. This Latin phrase means “this for that,” and may be implied or directly stated. In most cases, it refers to someone in a position of power, such as a manager, offering an employee something in return for a sexual favor.
A supervisor may tell an employee that he’s considering her for a promotion, but will only choose her if she goes on a date with him. Quid pro quo can involve a promise of reward – or a threat of punishment.
If the quid pro quo incident is clear and sexual in nature, an employee may sue the company for creating a hostile environment that makes it difficult for him or her to perform the functions of their job.
Third party quid pro quo harassment is a separate but related type of harassment that can take place if an employer asks an employee to date a client or vendor in exchange for business or more favorable deals.
Another type of harassment is abusive conduct, or bullying. Similar to the schoolyard definition, abusive conduct happens when one team member frequently shames or belittles another employee. This type of harassment can be one of the most damaging to your respectful workplace, as it breaks down the company’s culture with a barrage of negativity.
A victim of this type of harassment regularly endures insults, condescending remarks and a generally rude tone. Abusive conduct makes the office a hostile environment where an employee may dread coming to work.
Abusive conduct is a type of harassment where severity and pervasiveness are often considered. Because the determination of abusive conduct can be very subjective in nature, detailed record-keeping is vital to proving harassment has occurred.
One type of harassment that is harder to recognize and even tougher to respond to is bystander harassment. Employees can experience bystander harassment if they’re forced to witness inappropriate behavior. That means that even though they may not be the target of the harassment, they are made to feel uncomfortable.
An example of bystander harassment is a team member sharing explicit images or discriminatory jokes with a colleague when others nearby might overhear.
It’s important that your leaders understand what bystander harassment is, and that it, too, can be very subjective in nature. If another employee is close enough to see or hear and feel uncomfortable, it is bystander harassment, and must be addressed.
The final type of harassment you need to be aware of is third-party harassment. This type of harassment happens between an employee and a non-employee. So if a delivery person – who is not an employee of your company – repeatedly badgers your front-desk staff member for a date, you can be held liable for not protecting that front-desk employee.
Third-party harassment can also occur if a customer makes an employee feel uncomfortable or offended. For example, third-party harassment can occur if a restaurant patron teases or inappropriately touches the waitstaff on repeated occasions, and management does nothing to intervene.
Any of these types of harassment can lead to a hostile work environment. Affected employees may feel uncomfortable to the point where they cannot concentrate on work. They’re usually less productive and call in sick to work more often. And of course, they’re more likely to quit and might even initiate a lawsuit, costing the company time, money, productivity and even public trust.
Creating your own Respectful Workplace begins with proper education of employees and front-line managers. Preventing harassment and making sure you’re in compliance with the law in every state in which you operate is one thing. Improving your culture to become an employer of choice is a larger effort that must be undertaken intentionally.
Start by getting everyone on the same page with powerful online harassment training, The Respectful Workplace. This all-new resource is fully compliant with all state laws, helps your leaders and employees identify the different types of harassment and goes on to show them how to act courageously when they are confronted with harassment of any kind. You can learn more, here.
As a busy human resources professional, monitoring your company’s website for employee data privacy may not be high on your list of priorities. You may think it’s marketing’s job to deal with the website, but company websites are often keepers of far more data than you probably imagine. Making sure your company is successfully prepared – including not just policies but action plans – is crucial. As an HR professional, you are also in an excellent position to engage employees and communicate changes to data policies, creating greater trust and understanding between employees and the company.
When it comes to your company’s website, you might be surprised at the amount of employee data hidden there. From inactive web pages, to employee image data, even hidden meta descriptions in PDF documents, finding and removing that data is a very real challenge. But employee data privacy is an issue that should be addressed by the HR team regularly and systematically.
No longer can HR teams abdicate responsibility for employee information. Make it a point to be involved as your company builds security protocols and plans for any incident or privacy concerns. Company policies should specifically address employee communications and you should let employees know that all files can be monitored for security weaknesses.
In 2018, the new GDPR requirements provided privacy legislation within the EU (affecting many US businesses that sell products or employ workers globally). GDPR gives everyone the right to be “forgotten” by a website – meaning have all their data removed. This also applies to employees.
So if you have an employee who has created company documents and posted them to your website, the metadata contained in those documents could easily still identify that former employee, violating their “right to be forgotten.” This is just one area of which HR professionals need to be aware.
In 2017, credit bureau Equifax was hit by one of the biggest website data breaches in history. Hackers exploited a vulnerability in a web application to access customers’ Social Security numbers, addresses, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers, and credit card numbers.
The consequences of the data breach were terrible for both Equifax and its employees. The company experienced a significant loss of reputation. Although the company managed to come to an agreement with some state banking regulators in the United States to avoid paying fines, it faced large financial penalties in the United Kingdom and other areas. Meanwhile, Equifax employees were left in the dark about the data breach.
Simple communication from the HR team might have helped Equifax maintain it’s trust and relationship with employees following the data breach. Instead, after the breach was over, the company faced the challenge of working to reestablish its reputation among its own workforce.
Staying on top of policies, protocols and specific employee data privacy issues can be tedious, but there are tools available to HR professionals to help make this task more manageable. Siteimprove is one such resource, and Collibra offers a whitepaper on “Data Privacy Regulation.”
It’s particularly important to address any area where sensitive or personal employee data is concerned. Communication is key, and your employees need to be reassured that all data is stored on a secure site (https). If your company has one, make sure you connect with your security team to understand correct protocol. If there’s no team in place, it’s even more vital to ask the right questions:
Within your own team, be sure that access to employees’ personal data is limited to those that actually need to use it to perform their jobs. To reduce vulnerability, those with access should also create protocols for archiving, storing or deleting old or unnecessary employee data.
Always keep an eye to proactively creating easy-to-understand data protection policies. Be sure that those on your team that work with employees’ private data understand the laws that apply to that data. Maintaining employee trust is vital to your reputation as an employer of choice, and giving employees this peace of mind around their data is a vital part of that trust.
Ready to let employees know they can trust your company to protect their personal information? A custom-crafted online safety video from Projections can help you communicate with both your workforce and their families.