Sexual harassment has become a big issue that isn’t going away, and it’s scary and confusing for most small- and medium-sized business owners. The #MeToo movement has led to lots of debate around the topic and highlights the need for sexual harassment prevention training and compliance in the workplace.

The reality is that regulations are changing fast and more incidents of harassment of all kinds are being reported. 

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the number of sexual harassment lawsuits filed with the agency increased more than 50 percent in 2018 compared to 2017. The EEOC recovered nearly $70 million litigating and enforcing sexual harassment laws in 2018, up from $47.5 million the prior year. Sexual harassment in the workplace can not only be costly, but it can also create internal turmoil and damage your organization’s reputation.

Employers need to take the lead in preventing sexual harassment and dealing with it quickly and correctly if an employee makes a claim. 

Unfortunately, many SMBs have small HR teams without the latest sexual harassment-prevention expertise. In some cases, small organizations may not have an HR team at all. This leaves employers without the skills they need to properly handle a complaint.

A path forward for these organizations is outside help. By outsourcing sexual harassment prevention training and compliance, employers can get the expertise they need to ensure they’re remaining compliant—all while creating a better, more productive workplace for everyone. Turning to an outside expert can help you focus on results and bring a knowledgeable, unbiased viewpoint separate from the culture that could cause a problem in the first place. 

Outsourcing sexual harassment training and compliance can help employers navigate swiftly changing regulations that we’re seeing everywhere. Imminent regulations include strict rules on the content and wording of specific policy statements, as well as drastic changes in the guidelines for conducting mandatory annual training for all employees. California and Delaware also put significant changes and expansions to their sexual harassment regulations in effect in 2019, and more are likely to follow.

The EEOC’s requirements make it difficult and time-consuming for employers—especially those without a robust HR operation—to deliver anti-harassment programs on their own.

For example, the EEOC prefers hands-on, live interactive training versus webinars or those old videos you might’ve seen before. Outsourcing this type of training to experts allows you to provide employees the latest information without having to spend hours putting presentations and scenarios together. 

Steps for Harassment Prevention and Compliance 

The best type of training of any kind takes into account your workplace culture. Considering culture, the type of work the employees perform, as well as the workspace and how employees interact can help to make training more engaging and effective, and limit the risks associated with harassment.

In addition to culture, harassment prevention training and compliance also must take into account any specific state and local laws that could apply to how harassment policies are put together or how employees make complaints. 

Typically, harassment prevention involves:

  • Conducting an audit of current policies, workplace culture, operations, etc.
  • Training managers on harassment prevention
  • Creating accountability processes and procedures
  • Implementing bystander and civility training
  • Communicating harassment news, risks and strategies as they develop
  • Complying with EEOC requirements, tailored to the preferred formats and styles specified by regulatory agencies 

When sexual harassment prevention training and compliance is done right, employees feel safe, respected and heard in the workplace. And owners and management can be confident that they are fully compliant with all laws and regulations. That’s a win for everyone.