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Training to avoid sexual harassment might do more harm than good

Workplaces in San Diego and across the U.S. are increasingly cognizant over the amount of damage that sexual harassment allegations can do to their morale and overall business. With that in mind and in accordance with the law, many implement courses that are designed to present guidelines as to what constitutes inappropriate behavior.

Current research is indicating that some of these courses are working in an opposite manner than was their original intent. Employers and employees should know that these courses might be doing more harm than good. One researcher at California Berkeley says that the training has the propensity to lead to confusion as to what actually constitutes sexual harassment, and can also result in a backlash from those who received the training. It is difficult to get a full grasp as to the effect of training on harassing behaviors, but what there is shows that once training is completed people in the workplace may be more inclined to dismiss sexual harassment claims

Researchers also believe that the courses may be designed more toward protecting the employer from liability than from actually educating employees. A study indicated that one particular program showed that men who had the training were “significantly less likely” to believe that coercing an employee could be viewed as sexual harassment when it was compared with a group of men who did not receive this training.

Because California mandates that businesses employing 50 or more people must subject employees to a minimum of two hours of training to prevent harassment, this can be an ongoing issue. With this in mind, people who are subjected to lewd comments, sexual innuendo and other behaviors that are deemed inappropriate need to be aware that the training program might not be sufficient as a defense on the part of the company if allegations are made. Speaking to a lawyer who specializes in employment law when it comes to sexual harassment can yield more information about pursuing legal action.

Source: The Guardian, “Sexual harassment training may have reverse effect, research suggests,” Sam Levin, May 2, 2016