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Why Sexual Harassment Prevention Training is Essential for Your Business

By: Anna Grantham

 

Group of business people meeting in a seminar conference . Audience listening to instructor in employee education training session . Office worker community summit forum with expert speaker .

In today’s evolving workplace, ensuring a safe and inclusive environment is crucial. One of the most pressing issues that businesses face, regardless of size, is workplace harassment. 

As a small business owner, you might think that your close-knit team is immune to such issues. However, the reality is that no business is exempt. This is where workplace harassment prevention training comes into play.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is a pervasive issue that affects workplaces globally. It’s a form of discrimination based on sex and involves any unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. 

Harassment can manifest in various ways: from seemingly “harmless” comments about one’s appearance to more overt actions like unwanted touching. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) there were 7,514 sexual harassment claims filed in 2019 alone. This statistic underscores the urgency of addressing the issue head-on.

The Importance of Sexual Harassment Prevention Training

Sexual harassment prevention training is not just a formality; it’s a necessity. Here’s why:

Creates a Safe Environment: 

A well-informed workforce can better identify and prevent potential harassment scenarios. Training equips employees with the tools to navigate complex interpersonal situations, ensuring a respectful workplace for all.

Protects Your Business Legally: 

The legal landscape around workplace harassment is continually evolving. Regular training ensures that your business keeps up with the latest laws and regulations, safeguarding against potential lawsuits and fines.

Boosts Employee Morale and Productivity: 

A safe environment is conducive to productivity. When employees don’t have to worry about harassment, they can focus on their tasks, leading to better outcomes for the business.

preventing-workplace-harassment-in-small-business-settings

The Cost of Non-Compliance

Compliance is the backbone of a trustworthy business. It’s not just about ticking boxes or avoiding fines; it’s about upholding a standard of integrity. In the business context, compliance refers to adhering to laws, regulations, standards, and ethical practices set by local, state, or federal authorities. When a business is compliant, it signals to its employees, stakeholders, and customers that it operates responsibly and ethically. This can lead to increased customer loyalty, employee retention, and even a competitive advantage in the market.

The repercussions of ignoring compliance training extend beyond financial penalties:

Legal Repercussions: 

Beyond the immediate fines, legal actions can have long-term implications on a business’s reputation. A single lawsuit can erode years of trust with customers and stakeholders.

Decreased Employee Morale: 

Harassment incidents can lead to a toxic work environment. This can result in higher turnover rates, increased absenteeism, and reduced productivity.

Financial Strain: 

The direct costs of non-compliance, such as legal fees and fines, are just the tip of the iceberg. Indirect costs, like lost business opportunities and the cost of replacing employees, can be even more significant.

Compliance Fines

The financial implications of non-compliance can be staggering. Depending on the jurisdiction, fines can range from a few hundred dollars for minor infractions to tens of thousands for more severe violations. The EEOC reported that in 2019, they secured $68.2 million for victims of sexual harassment. This figure doesn’t account for the additional costs businesses incurred in legal fees, settlements, and other related expenses.

How to Avoid Compliance Fines

Stay Informed:

Regularly update yourself on local, state, and federal regulations. This ensures you’re always aware of the latest requirements.

Invest in Training: 

Regularly schedule workplace harassment prevention training sessions. Whether you opt for compliance training online or offline, ensure it covers all necessary topics.

Document Everything: 

Maintain records of all training sessions, including attendee lists, dates, and training materials. This documentation can be crucial in case of audits or legal actions.

Encourage Reporting: 

Create an environment where employees feel safe reporting any incidents of harassment. Address these reports promptly and professionally.

Stay Proactive: 

Don’t wait for an incident to occur. Regularly review and update your company’s harassment policies.

Seek Expertise: 

Consider consulting with legal experts or HR professionals to ensure your policies and training programs are up-to-date.

State-Mandated Training Deadlines

Navigating through different state rules can be a bit tricky, particularly when it comes to meeting the training requirements set by each state. Among states that have mandated training, each state has its own guidelines, making it essential for businesses to stay updated and take necessary action.

Adhering to these training guidelines is not just about legal compliance. It’s also a demonstration of the company’s dedication to ensuring a safe and inclusive workplace. Here’s a simplified breakdown of the training frequency and initial deadlines for three major states:

New York (NY): https://complybright.com/new-york-sexual-harassment-prevention-training/

  • Training Frequency: Annual training is a requirement here.
  • Initial Deadline: The original deadline was October 9th, starting from 2019. If your business has been running since then, you’d likely follow this date each year. However, new businesses can set their own deadlines based on when they start and conduct the first training.

California (CA): https://complybright.com/california-sexual-harassment-prevention-training/

  • Training Frequency: Training is required every other year in California.
  • Initial Deadline: The kick-off date is January 1st, so businesses usually schedule their training around this time every two years.

Illinois (IL): https://complybright.com/illinois-sexual-harassment-prevention-training/

  • Training Frequency: Like New York, annual training is standard here.
  • Initial Deadline: The deadline is set for December 31st, making it easy for companies to plan their training within the calendar year.

By understanding and following the training frequency and deadlines specific to each state, businesses can maintain legal compliance and showcase a solid commitment to creating a positive and respectful workplace environment.

How ComplyBright Helps You Stay Compliant

Platforms like ComplyBright make it easier than ever to be compliant with streamlined compliance training online. With a user-friendly interface, up-to-date content, and a comprehensive library covering various compliance topics, ComplyBright ensures that your small business remains compliant without the hassle. Their platform also provides reminders for state-mandated training deadlines, ensuring you never miss a crucial date.

Conclusion

Sexual harassment prevention training is not just a legal requirement; it’s a moral obligation. By investing in proper training and understanding the importance of compliance, you’re not only protecting your business but also creating a positive and safe environment for all. Remember, a safe workplace is a successful workplace. Stay informed, stay compliant, and ensure your business thrives in an environment of respect and safety.

Published: October 19, 2023
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Anna Grantham

Anna Grantham is the Director of Operations for Tarkenton, a full-service B2B agency. Since joining the Tarkenton team in 2020, Anna has played a key role in building the ComplyBright training system and working with clients for ongoing service, product, and growth initiatives. Anna served as a public school educator for 7 years, and holds a Master's degree in Instructional Technology.

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