It’s never too early to conduct anti-harassment training

Last week, my friend, Jon Hyman, had a nice post on his Ohio Employer Law Blog entitled, “If you want to stop workplace harassment, start by educating our children.

If, after reading the title of his blog post, it’s in any way unclear what Jon may have written about, I’ll send Tommy back to hit you over the head with a tack hammer here’s the thrust:

Bullying and disrespect are such a huge problem in our society. Starting an age-appropriate dialogue with middle school students is crucial to helping halt these issues [of harassment] before they become issues. Too often, we think that children are not mature enough, or need protection from difficult topics. To the contrary, this is the exact issue to start a dialogue about the meaning of respect across genders. Otherwise, these children grow up with looser boundaries, and become adults (and your employees) with zero baseline on these critically important issues.

As an example, Jon noted that his 7th grader’s school was rolling out a three-week age-appropriate sexual harassment prevention program for the students.

Now, you may be thinking, really? Why would kids need harassment training?

Maybe to counteract some of the tone-deafness from educators.

For example, over the weekend, I read this story from Matthew Grant, at FOX 46 Charlotte, reporting about a school in South Carolina that allegedly had 10-year-olds picking cotton and singing slave songs to commemorate  Black History Month.

Then, I read this story from Shomari Stone and Gina Cook from NBC 4 Washington about a school in Virginia that allegedly instructed elementary school students to act as runaway slaves and slave owners during a gym lesson for Black History Month. Apparently, three teachers designed the activity with the oversight of a school administrator.

If these stories are true, I imagine that the schools didn’t intend to harass anyone based on their race. But, for the schools to be so obtuse…

How does this translate to your workplace?

If something like this happens at work, the intent of the half-wit actor doesn’t matter. That’s why, as Jon mentioned in his post, it is so important that “[y]ou should start talking to your employees about your anti-harassment / anti-bullying / respectful workplace policies, expectations, and culture on Day One.”

Most of us understand that groping, racial slurs, and other obvious stuff are not tolerated. So, get into the weeds a bit. Add depth to your training. (You may borrow this post if you’d like.)

While you can’t possibly anticipate every insensitivity that your workforce may display, the more enlightening your training is for your workforce, the better off you’ll be.


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