Missouri House of Representatives Receives Sexual Harassment Training

In January 2016 all members of the Missouri House of Representatives attended a live training session aimed at reducing the number of sexual harassment scandals appearing on the evening news. Indeed, the mandatory training was scheduled in response to the recent resignations of the former Missouri Speaker of the House and a State senator, both of whom resigned amid allegations of inappropriate behavior with college-aged interns in recent years.

In response to the scandals, the state legislative body approved a plan to have all members and their staff attend two training sessions. In addition to the training sessions, lawmakers will now have a new complaint system whereby employees working with the House of Representatives will easier be able to lodge complaints of sexual harassment which will be heard by an independent ombudsman.

As part of the training overhaul, the online training system in place for incoming senators will be expanded, and will include new rules for dealing with members of the State’s intern program, which draws interns from public universities for the four and one half month legislative session.

Under the new training program, legislators will be given a lengthy list of acceptable and unacceptable behavior, including behavior to avoid such as sexual comments, innuendos, or suggestive comments about body image, choice of clothes, or sexual activity. Importantly, the training will cover electronic based harassment such as text messages and voice mails to co-workers.

Sexual Harassment Training Can Reduce the Number of Claims

When asked about the new training regimen the current House Speaker mentioned “there is no rule or law that can make our imperfect process perfect...” While this statement may be correct, Syntrio has years of expertise providing online sexual harassment training to companies and government agencies of all sizes. In our experience, those that receive the training are better prepared to make the proper decisions when faced with a situation where questionable conduct could arise.

California sexual harassment training is somewhat unique in that it is mandatory per statute (as is also the case in Maine and Connecticut). In those states where training is not mandatory it is very likely that some or all of the scandals that led to the recent reactive “rush to train” scenarios would never have occurred if proactive training were adopted by companies and government agencies. While the Missouri House Speaker is correct that it is impossible to prevent all incidents of sexual harassment, the evidence shows that sexual harassment training works as an educational deterrent to objectionable behavior.

Syntrio’s sexual harassment training courses use real life scenarios and calculated hypotheticals to teach the dangers of allowing harassment to persist at your company. By discussing real cases and developing vignettes based on reality your managers will not only learn the federal and state discrimination laws, they will see how they apply in the workplace. Indeed, our courses do not just teach the “black letter law,” they have true practical value for your managers and employees that many competing courses do not.

Syntrio is committed to helping businesses avoid the costly mistakes associated with sexual harassment. We are also able to custom-tailor our courses to fit the needs of your business. Contact Syntrio for more information about our employment discrimination courses for employees and management and remember to follow us on TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on compliance issues that may impact your company!

 

Angels in the Workplace? Accusations of Harassment Leave the Navy Feeling Blue

For a human resources professional or high level executive, some of the worst possible terms to land in the subject line of an email include “porn,” “homophobia,” and “harassment.” Each on its own is enough to give upper management a small heart attack. Unfortunately, the United States’ most famous aerial performers recently faced this triumvirate of HR evil.

According to a recent CNN.com report, the Blue Angels aerial performers have been accused of flying with pornographic material in their cockpits, making homophobic slurs, and constantly degrading women. The CNN report stated that at one point things got so bad that an image of a male genitalia adorned a Blue Angels hangar. This image was so large that it was detected by Google Maps satellites. All of this behavior allegedly created a hostile working environment, according to a recent complaint against the organization.

After the aforementioned tomfoolery was tolerated within the Blue Angels for years (and even arguably perpetuated by high-level commanders), a service member filed a complaint in 2014 for the “toxic” atmosphere that had been created within the Blue Angels. Although an internal inquiry is currently underway, it is easy to foresee the likely forthcoming lawsuits. 

Offensive and Harassing Conduct Can Take Many Forms

As the Blue Angels case study shows, harassing workplace conduct reaches far beyond degrading comments toward women.  In fact, one of the more common forms of harassment allegations stem from offensive imagery on computer monitors and within emails. Further, many employees believe it is acceptable to have off-color discussions about sex, sexual orientation, and gender so long as the person they are conversing with has the same or similar views. This belief is not only antiquated, it fails to take into account the fact that anyone could overhear the offensive comments or see the offensive imagery, thereby creating the basis for a sex harassment claim. It also fails to consider that a person may feel under pressure not to complain about offensive conduct. 

In today’s litigious society it is ever important for human resources managers and executives to remain up to date as to the types of conduct they need to watch out for to ensure an effective workplace.   

Online Sexual Harassment Training Programs Can Prevent Hostile Working Environments

The standard argument coming from the Blue Angels side will likely be that higher-ups did not know what was going on. Unfortunately, hiding one’s head in the sand is unlikely to be successful under any set of facts, much less when a pervasive environment of sexual comments and behavior was allowed to persist. The Navy has since set up awareness training from various equal opportunity programs to rid the Blue Angels of the smut. This case just goes to show that anti-harassment training is necessary in every organization, particularly for managers and supervisors. Sadly, no organization is immune to conduct and circumstances that can lead to claims of sexual harassment and other forms of unlawful harassment

Syntrio, Inc. specializes in providing sexual harassment prevention and HR compliance training in an extremely comprehensive yet cost-effective and time sensitive manner. Contact us today at 888-289-6670 to discuss the ways Syntrio, Inc. can help your supervisors and HR Professionals ensure that they are up to date with state and federal laws regarding employment equality and workplace diversity training.

 

 

Settling Sex Harassment Cases is an Expensive “Proposition”

Sex Harassment Lawsuits: “It Won’t Happen To Me.” 

Many business owners or high-level executives believe they have the business acumen to avoid hiring managers who will commit egregious acts of sexual harassment in the workplace. They use hiring tactics they feel will be enough for sexual harassment prevention. Unfortunately, it is impossible to truly know everything about a manager, and it is even harder to keep tabs on changes in the manager’s personality as time passes. As such, when an employee brings a claim of sexual harassment, the frequent course of action advised by management-side employment attorneys is to settle the case.

Settling Lawsuits Brings Unnecessary Costs

On average, the cost of settling a civil sexual harassment lawsuit ranges from four to five figures. Nevertheless, many attorneys for plaintiffs boast claims of six and seven figure settlements on their websites, and these figures do not take into account the high-profile seven and eight figure verdicts that are reported when these cases go to trial. While paying out a five figure settlement may be seen by some business owners as “the high cost of doing business,” such settlements set a precedent within the workplace that sexual harassment will be allowed to persist so long as the employer is willing to “pay off” the victims. This is not a culture that leads to a productive workplace. Conversely, when employees know that managers are receiving proper training to avoid incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace, a more productive culture is fostered.

Case Study: New Jersey Township Pays $25,000 Settlement to EMT Sexually Harassed by Deputy Chief

On May 27, 2014, the South Jersey Times reported that a deputy sent a subordinate employee text messages propositioning her for sex. After the employee complained to the Department, the deputy asked to speak with her alone. A Department investigation revealed that the employee may have had a consensual relationship with the deputy, but it was unclear.

This case presents a classic “he said-she said” case of sexual harassment. The text messages were obviously damaging to the Township’s case, yet there was evidence that the two were involved in a consensual relationship. Amid uncertain facts, the Township paid a $25,000 settlement to resolve the case. Importantly, the Township did not have any policy for sexual harassment training at any time relevant to the aforementioned incident. Had the Department implemented such a policy, the alleged harassing conduct and resulting lawsuit could have been easily prevented.

Sexual Harassment Training Can Save Costs and Increase Employee Productivity

With the advent of e-learning and online compliance training, developing sexual harassment prevention policies has become easier and more cost-effective than ever. Online training companies like Syntrio, Inc. provide training courses and materials with respect to sexual harassment and retaliation prevention.

Syntrio, Inc. specializes in providing sexual harassment prevention and HR compliance training in an extremely comprehensive yet cost-effective and time sensitive manner. Contact us today at 888-289-6670 to discuss the ways Syntrio, Inc. can help your supervisors and HR professionals ensure that they are up to date with state and federal laws regarding equality and workplace diversity training.

Assembly Bill 1825 (AB 1825) is Turning 10 Years Old

What is the California Law Requiring Supervisor Training on Workplace Discrimination and Workplace Harassment?

California AB 1825 (Government Code § 12950.1) amended the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Government Code § 12900 et seq., to require employers of 50 or more employees to provide at least two hours of effective training to all supervisory employees on prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace; workplace discrimination (including racial discrimination, religious discrimination, age discrimination, sex discrimination, gender discrimination, and other types of discrimination in the workforce); and workplace retaliation at least once every two years.

A Brief History of AB 1825

AB 1825 and the Connecticut law after which it was modeled are the most rigorous workplace discrimination and workplace harassment training laws in the United States. When AB 1825 went into effect California employers scrambled to large law firms seeking the necessary EEO classes and EEO training necessary to maintain compliance with the new law. Clearly that training was expensive, as billable hours racked up.  Nevertheless, in the early years employers saw a discernible decline in age discrimination, gender discrimination, and race discrimination. Employers and their supervisors also learned useful human resources and management practices regarding hiring, lawful termination, employee privacy, and family and medical leave act issues that contributed to a more positive overall working environment immediately.

The Impact of Employer Compliance with AB 1825

Undoubtedly, employers have a responsibility to eliminate workplace discrimination and workplace harassment.  By allowing these unlawful practices to flourish in the workplace, employers pay the high price of litigation costs in addition to low morale, decreased productivity, and an overall negative reputation in the community. In the ten years since AB 1825 was enacted, employers who once dreaded the taking up supervisor work time for training courses now welcome the idea of allowing their supervisors the time to learn the latest laws and tactics to reduce unlawful workplace discrimination and workplace harassment. Modern employers understand that not only are they able to avoid employee lawsuits, they also gain a more productive overall workforce when their businesses are free from hostile environments. In short, effective anti-discrimination training is not only a legal requirement; it is a prudent business decision.

Changes in California Discrimination Law Mean Changes in Employer Policies

In addition to fostering a positive, non-discriminatory work environment, California’s discrimination laws are ever changing. Businesses and their supervisors absolutely must learn about changes in the law. For example, in 2013 California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law bills that took effect at the beginning of 2014 changing definitions of discrimination against military victims (AB 556) and victims of certain violent crimes (SB 292). New definitions can mean existing EEO policies are now out of date and non-compliant with California and federal law. By keeping regular training schedules you can be sure that your business is compliant with the latest laws regarding workplace discrimination and workplace harassment in addition to maintaining compliance with the bi-annual training requirements set forth by AB 1825.

Cost-Effective Electronic Methods of AB 1825 Compliance can Save Time and Productivity

With the advent of e-learning and online compliance training, developing equal employment opportunity programs and policies that are AB 1825 compliant has become easier and more cost-effective than ever. Certified training companies like Syntrio, Inc. provide two-hour training courses that meet the requirements of AB 1825 with respect to discrimination in the workforce; sexual harassment prevention; retaliation prevention; lawful (non-discriminatory) hiring, interviewing and termination; workplace ethics, cultural diversity and other relevant topics.

Syntrio, Inc. specializes in providing AB 1825 compliant ethics and HR compliance training in an extremely comprehensive yet cost-effective and time sensitive manner. Contact us today at 888-289-6670 to discuss the ways Syntrio, Inc. can help your supervisors and HR Professionals ensure that they are up to date with California equality and workplace diversity training.