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Anti-bias and sex-harassment training: a 5-point checklist

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,HR Management,Human Resources

Issue: Failing to train employees on discrimination and harassment can prove a costly mistake, but so is training them the wrong way.

Benefit: Effective and ongoing training signals your "good-faith" efforts, which can help you defend against an employee lawsuit.

Action: Use this checklist to see how your training efforts stack up, then make appropriate policy changes.

A strong anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training program will help keep disputes and lawsuits at bay. And, in case of a lawsuit, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the courts will consider your "good-faith" efforts as part of your defense.

But simply shooting employees an e-mail with your written policy once a year isn't enough. Courts want proof that you've put an effective and ongoing training program in place.

How effective is your training? Use this checklist of training "musts" to help you decide:

1. Train all employees, not just supervisors, right after they're hired. The EEOC requires employers to educate all employees about their rights and responsibilities related to workplace harassment. Don't assume that you're covered because you give new employees an employee manual that contains the policies. Employees may claim they didn't understand what the policy meant. Best bet: Review your policy orally with each new employee.

2. Conduct training regularly. Don't let training to prevent harassment and discrimination devolve into a one-time thing. Courts will look for proof that you've taken steps to keep employees aware of potentially harassing behavior. Best bet: Hold review sessions at least once a year. Test: Make sure employees can clearly describe your organization's discrimination and harassment policies. But avoid pass/fail tests. In court, such tests could be used to argue that you continue to employ people who have failed training.

3. Cover all forms of illegal harassment and discrimination. Educating employees about sexual harassment only won't help you if you're sued for racial or religious discrimination.

4. Train the trainer. Plaintiffs' attorneys will try to discount the quality and content of your training by discrediting the trainer's knowledge of harassment and discrimination law. Stand ready to prove that your trainer has the expertise and qualifications to provide legally accurate training. Best bet: Use an outside training firm or video/online tools if you don't feel comfortable with the job.

5. Avoid techniques that can trigger liability. Some trainers inadvertently provide evidence of harassment or discrimination during training sessions. Example: Asking trainees to talk about their personal prejudices and biases could be used in court to prove that those employees harbor discriminatory attitudes.

Free E-visory report:

Sample sexual harassment policy

Our E-visory report, Preventing Sexual Harassment: a Business Guide, includes a sample sexual harassment policy, plus additional tips on avoiding liability. HR Specialist subscribers can access a free copy at www.hrspecialist. net/extra.

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