If you have employees, you are at risk for a sexual harassment action. Therefore, implementing sexual harassment training is highly recommended.
There are two good reasons to implement training. First, if you and your employees know what behavior may be considered illegal under sexual harassment laws, there is less likelihood that you and your employees will engage in such behavior. Lawsuit averted.
Second, if you provide sexual harassment training, you may be bolstering your chances of succeeding if you do get sued. In the United States Supreme Court case Burlington Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth, 524 U.S. 742, 765, 118 S.Ct. 2257, 2270 (1998), the Court explained that an employer can be liable when one of its supervisors create a hostile work environment for his/her subordinate. However, if no tangible employment action is taken, the employer may assert an affirmative defense. The employer may not be liability if: “the employer exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any sexual harassing behavior,” (emphasis added), and the employee did not take advantage of the opportunities provided by the employer. Sexual harassment training (along with proper sexual harassment policies) have been found to constitute “reasonable care to prevent” harassment. See, e.g., Nicholos v. Azteca Restaurant Enterprises, Inc., 256 F.3d 864 (9th cir. 2001) (“Thus, we agree with the district court that Azteca’s policy and company-wide training program were sufficient to show that it exercised reasonable care to prevent sexual harassment in its restaurants.”)
It is worth every business’s time to implement sexual harassment training now. As Benjamin Franklin aptly stated: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Alona M. Gottfried leads training in sexual harassment, discrimination and conflict resolution. She is also an employment attorney and mediator in Arizona. If you have questions about training, she can be reached at: 480-998-1500 or firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a general interest article only and is not intended to be legal advice. See a legal professional before making legal decisions.