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Workplace sexual harassment has damaging effects on an organization's culture, morale, and productivity. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature. This online sexual harassment training course is designed to educate all members of the workplace on what qualifies as sexual harassment and the best practices for prevention of unwelcome workplace behaviors.
Sexual harassment training should be a key component of a company's overall safety training program. Our online sexual harassment in the workplace courses go beyond teaching just laws and rules to also emphasize sexual harassment's effect on a victim and the workplace environment, as well as the implications of sexual harassment for both employers and employees.
What are the governing regulations? While sexual harassment is not explicitly governed by OSHA regulations, Section 5 (a)(1) of the OSH Act requires that all employers provide a workplace "free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm" to their employees. This OSHA provision is applicable to sexual harassment when such incidents create an unsafe working environment or causes the victim harmful levels of stress.
Workplace sexual harassment is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The EEOC considers sexual harassment to be a form of gender discrimination, and harassment claims may be filed directly through the EEOC.
Many states and local governments have their own discrimination and harassment laws and agencies that handle claims independent of the EEOC. These are referred to as Fair Employment Practices Agencies (FEPAs). In some cases, FEPAs enforce laws offering more protection to workers, such as protection from discrimination because an employee is married or single, has children, or because of sexual orientation. There also may be different deadlines for filing a charge, different standards for determining whether you are protected by these laws, and different types of relief available to victims of harassment.
Who must take this training? Because sexual harassment can occur at any workplace, all employers should make it a priority to provide safety training for their employees. All members of an organization's workforce should participate in sexual harassment at work online training, including employees, managers, supervisors, contract workers, and volunteers. Online training should be part of a comprehensive approach to reducing the risk of workplace harassment.
Case Study: In June of 1998, the Supreme Court ruled on the sexual harassment case, Burlington Industries v. Ellerth. The case involved Kimberly Ellerth, a female salesperson for Burlington Industries. She alleged that from 1993 to 1994 a mid-level manager made offensive remarks and gestures repeatedly, though she never reported his actions to those in charge. Ellerth was promoted, but she said that she was forced to quit due to the manager's persistent and unwelcome comments that referred to her breasts, her buttocks and legs, and how her job would be easier if she "loosened up" and wore more revealing clothing. The company referred to her situation as a "constructive discharge." Ellerth felt she was forced to quit.
Ellerth's case was initially dismissed by a lower court, because she could not show tangible employment action taken against her or prove that her harasser was aware of his misconduct. The Supreme Court determined that employers are liable for workers who sexually harass subordinates, even if the harassed employee does not face any adverse job consequences.
In cases similar to this one, employers may defend themselves against liability by showing that they acted quickly to prevent and correct any harassing behavior and that the harassed employee failed to utilize their employer's protection. Such a defense is unavailable when the alleged harassment ends with a tangible employment action as it did in the case of Ellerth.
There is no specific timeframe set by OSHA or the EEOC for retraining or recertification in sexual harassment courses. However, leaders and experts in the field of workplace sexual harassment advise that recertification be required annually through in-person or online certification courses.