The Ultimate Guide To Anti-Harassment Training

A safe and respectful work environment is essential for everyone's well-being and productivity. Unfortunately, harassment can create a hostile atmosphere that disrupts morale, hinders performance, and can even lead to legal repercussions.

The good news is, that anti-harassment training can help to significantly reduce incidents of harassment and violence in the workplace. In this ultimate guide, we review the in’s and out’s of anti-harassment training, including program recommendations and state-specific requirements.

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    Defining Harassment

    Harassment comes in many forms, including verbal, physical or sexual in nature. This unwelcome conduct creates a hostile work enivornment and can interfere with an individual’s work performance.

    Common Examples Of Harassment

      • Offensive jokes or comments based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or other protected characteristics.
      • Intimidation, threats, or bullying behavior.
      • Unwanted physical contact or sexual advances.
      • Repeatedly criticizing someone's work in an abusive manner.
      • Spreading rumors or gossip about a coworker.

    It's important to understand that harassment can be subtle or overt. Even if not intended to be malicious, behavior can be perceived as harassment if it creates a feeling of discomfort or intimidation for the recipient.

    The Importance Of Anti-Harassment Training

    Anti-harassment training plays a crucial role in preventing harassment, while also helping to foster a respectful workplace culture. It also empowers both employers and employees with the knowledge and tools they need to recognize, prevent, and address harassment.

    For organizations, anti-harassment training demonstrates a commitment to creating a safe and inclusive environment. It also helps mitigate legal risks associated with harassment claims. By providing proper training, organizations can show they took proactive steps to prevent harassment and ensure employees understand their rights and responsibilities.

    For employees, anti-harassment training fosters a sense of safety and belonging. It empowers them to recognize harassment, report incidents confidently, and intervene effectively as bystanders. Additionally, training equips employees with the skills to communicate respectfully and create a positive work environment for everyone.

    Benefits of Anti-Harassment Training

    Investing in anti-harassment training offers a multitude of benefits for both organizations and employees.

    Benefits of Anti-Harassment Training For Employers

        • Fulfills Regulatory Obligations. Complying with state-specific requirements is crucial. Several states, such as California, Connecticut, Illinois and New York, as well as cities such as Chicago and New York City, mandate anti-harassment training for some or all private-sector employers and employees. And while not mandated, some states like Colorado and Massachusetts recommend or encourage anti-harassment training for employers.
        • Reduces Legal Risk: Harassment claims can be costly for organizations, resulting in lawsuits, settlements, and damaged reputations. Proper anti-harassment training demonstrates a proactive approach to preventing harassment and can be used as evidence of good faith efforts in legal proceedings. By equipping employees with the knowledge to identify and report harassment, organizations can minimize the likelihood of incidents and mitigate their legal liability.
        • Increases Productivity: A safe and respectful work environment fosters employee well-being and engagement, leading to increased productivity. When employees feel valued and protected from harassment, they're more likely to be focused, motivated, and invested in their work. Anti-harassment training helps create a positive work environment where employees can thrive and contribute their best efforts.
        • Improves Employee Morale: Harassment can create a hostile work environment that damages employee morale and leads to decreased job satisfaction. Anti-harassment training promotes trust and respect among employees, fostering a sense of belonging and psychological safety. When employees feel comfortable and supported, morale improves, leading to better teamwork, communication, and overall workplace satisfaction.

     Benefits of Anti-Harassment Training For Employees

        • Understanding Rights and Responsibilities: Employees have the right to a workplace free from harassment and the responsibility to maintain a respectful environment.
        • Identifying and Reporting Harassment: Equip employees with the knowledge to recognize different forms of harassment (verbal, physical, sexual, etc.) and provide clear instructions on how to report incidents. This could include outlining internal reporting procedures to supervisors or Human Resources and highlighting the availability of external resources like the EEOC.
        • Bystander Intervention: Train employees on how to effectively intervene as bystanders when they witness harassment. This can involve providing specific strategies for de-escalation, redirection, or reporting the incident to a supervisor.
        • Creating a Positive Work Environment: Employees play a vital role in fostering a respectful and inclusive workplace. Encourage open communication, positive interactions with colleagues, and a commitment to building a positive work environment for all.

    By ensuring both employers and employees understand their roles and responsibilities, anti-harassment training lays the groundwork for a safe and respectful workplace culture.

    Elements Of An Impactful Anti-Harassment Training Program

    Effective anti-harassment training goes beyond simply checking a compliance box. It should be engaging, informative, and empower both employers and employees to create a safe and respectful work environment. Here are some key topics your anti-harassment training program should include:

      • Identifying Harassment: Train participants to recognize different forms of harassment, including verbal, physical, sexual, and cyberbullying. Provide clear examples and scenarios to illustrate these behaviors.
      • Bystander Intervention: Equip employees with the skills to effectively intervene as bystanders when they witness harassment. Explore strategies for de-escalation, redirection, and reporting the incident.
      • Reporting Procedures: Clearly outline internal reporting procedures, including designated individuals or departments responsible for receiving complaints. Emphasize the importance of prompt and confidential reporting.
      • Anti-Retaliation Policies: Reinforce that retaliation against someone who reports harassment is strictly prohibited. Explain the organization's policies and procedures for addressing retaliation claims.
      • Diversity and Inclusion: Integrate content that promotes diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Discuss the importance of respecting individual differences and fostering a sense of belonging for all employees.

    Types Of Anti-Harassment Training Programs

    The ideal training approach depends on your organization's needs and resources. Here are some options:

      • Instructor-Led Training: This interactive format allows for discussion, Q&A, and role-playing exercises. It can be particularly effective for engaging participants and building a sense of community. However, it often requires resources that you may not have readily available internally.
      • Online Training: Online modules offer flexibility and affordability, allowing employees to complete training at their own pace. Content should focus on key concepts, offer real-life scenarios of harassment, and test knowledge through interactive quizzes.
      • Blended Training: Combine instructor-led sessions with online modules to offer a comprehensive learning experience. This approach allows for interactive elements while still providing the flexibility of online components. However, depending on your resources and your employee’s availability, managing even a portion of in-person training can be extremely demanding.

    Whichever method you choose, anti-harassment training should not be a one-time event. To maintain a positive workplace culture, consider regular refresher training sessions. This helps keep the topic top-of-mind for employees and reinforces key concepts. Additionally, consider incorporating anti-harassment training into new employee onboarding programs to establish a culture of respect from the outset.

    By focusing on these elements, organizations can develop effective anti-harassment training programs that empower their workforce and promote a safe and inclusive work environment.

    Anti-Harassment Training Requirements By State

    A number of states require employers to provide anti-harassment training. Regulations can vary by state and even city, including who needs training, frequency of training, as well as mandatory topics.

    Here is a high-level breakdown of states and cities that require anti-harassment training:

    New York

        • New York State requires all employers (public and private) with at least one employee to provide annual sexual harassment prevention training to all employees (supervisory and non-supervisory).

    New York City

        • New York City has its own requirements under Local Law 96 of 2018. Employers with 15 or more employees must provide annual sexual harassment prevention training for all employees.


        • California mandates anti-sexual harassment training every two years for all employees (supervisory and non-supervisory) working for employers with five or more employees. Training must be completed within six months of assuming a position.


        • Illinois requires sexual harassment prevention training annually for all employees (supervisory and non-supervisory) under the Illinois Workplace Harassment Act (SB75).


        • Chicago builds upon the Illinois requirements. Employers must provide one hour of sexual harassment prevention training and one hour of bystander intervention training annually to all employees. Supervisors receive an additional hour of harassment prevention training.


        • Connecticut requires employers with three or more employees to provide two hours of sexual harassment training to all existing employees (supervisory and non-supervisory) by a specific deadline (October 1, 2020 for most employers). Employers with less than three employees must provide the training to all supervisors.


        • Delaware requires sexual harassment training every two years for all employees, similar to California. However, there is no specific requirement regarding the number of employees for mandatory training.


        • Maine mandates sexual harassment training for all employees. However, there is no specified frequency requirement.
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