Avoid Litigation and Protect Reputation with Workplace Harassment Training

Employees Workplace - EnformHR NJWhat can you do with $13 million?

In a country where the median wage of a full-time worker is $863 a week, you can keep six additional employees on your payroll for 48 years.

Someone should have whispered this datum into the ears of decision makers at Fox News; when their firm had this money, it was simply squandered.

An investigation by The New York Times, which was published on April 1, 2017, revealed that Fox News spent millions of dollars to protect a man who was later dismissed from the company for behavior that “disrespects women or contributes to an uncomfortable work environment.”

The channel paid five women—Rachel Bernstein, Andrea Mackris, Rebecca Diamond, Laurie Dhue, and Juliet Huddy—a total of $13 million over the years. In exchange, the women were told not to pursue litigation or speak out publicly against the channel’s star presenter, Bill O’Reilly.

Before he was dismissed, Bill O’Reilly hosted Fox News’ most-watched program, The O’Reilly Factor. The show was averaging nearly four million viewers per episode, and its cancellation is surely a noticeable financial loss to the channel.

Businesses everywhere in the United States should take a note.

Sexual Harassment in Your Workplace = Financial Losses and Damaged Brand

The O’Reilly incident carries an important lesson for anyone who runs a business and thinks that workplace harassment training is not essential in 2017 because sexual discrimination is a thing of the past. That’s just not true.

Data from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) show that 12,860 sex-based harassment allegations were made in 2016 alone. That’s a slight increase from 12,695 in 2010.

The situation, instead of improving, has deteriorated somewhat for victims during the past seven years; and large, wealthy organizations aren’t the only places where harassment is occurring. It’s everywhere.

  • In 2013, the Atlanta Board of Education approved a $190,000 payout to a female bus driver whose supervisor made lewd comments, sexual advances and tried to fire her.
  • In another incident, a former D.C. public pool lifeguard was awarded $3.5 million because her supervisor harassed her sexually, and terminated her services when she protested.

The problem is more widespread that we would like to acknowledge, and ignorance is not a solution. In fact, pretending that the elephant isn’t in the room is already taking its toll on the victims and their employers.

Harassment Prevention - EnformHR NJ

Workplace harassment costs victims their peace of mind and careers. It also damages a business’ reputation and when reported and proved, leads to financial losses. That should not be happening.

In the second decade of the 21st century, workplaces should be more humane and conducive to employees’ growth. That demands a stronger set of laws, more vigilant law enforcement, and an effort to improve conditions for male and female employees by businesses themselves.

Individually, most businesses can do little to change workplace harassment laws or pressure law enforcement. But they can make their employees—for whose conduct they are answerable in court— more aware and considerate through workplace harassment training.

With more women, coming forward about discrimination than before, your business’ financial health and reputation depend on creating discrimination-free workplaces.

Difference Workplace Harassment Training Can Make

Before you start treating a problem, you have to educate yourself about it first. Workplace harassment is not an exception.

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Inclusive Workplaces

Employee harassment training can empower your employees with the tools they will need to make the office is a more welcome place for other workers, irrespective of their gender. That means more productivity, and increased profits.

Reduced Litigation

Training reduces the risk of costly litigation that usually follows harassment A trainer can start with a definition of harassment, and go on to share ways to tackle it.

For instance, “joking around” once is not harassment in the eyes of the law, but if that “joking around” becomes commonplace and regular, and is perceived by the victim as damaging to their workflow or personal life, it can quickly become a legal issue.

Unless they can show that they took prompt and appropriate corrective action, employers are liable for the actions of their employees, independent contractors, and customers on their premises.

Takeaway

Workplace harassment training has become imperative for your company if you want to protect it from costly litigation and a damaged reputation. Through a documented training with a strong anti-harassment policy, you can avoid fines and a blot on your brand. Remember, the best way to deal with harassment is education, not litigation.

Cristina Amyot

Cristina Amyot holds Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management from Rutgers University and a Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP) certification from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)

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