I get to do a TON of respectful workplace trainings, otherwise known as harassment training. It is one of my favorite things to do. However, a new requirement for harassment training irks me to no end.
It’s the requirement under California, Illinois, New York, and potentially more state laws that requires that we talk about the remedies available to harassment victims. I don’t hate the remedies – victims of harassment are entitled to all the remedies out there and then some. I just don’t like talking about them in training.
Why you ask? Victims of harassment are already plagued with a seemingly endless list of reasons NOT to report harassment, including retaliation, exposing an embarrassing incident(s), fear of being judged about the clothes they wear, fear of not being able to pay their mortgage, rent, car payment, student loan, child care bills, etc. Telling them about the remedies available to them, all of which could bankrupt the very organization they’re working for, adds an additional burden to a victim. Victims of harassment don’t always want to bring down their employer – they want to bring down the harasser or at the very least, make the conduct stop. They don’t want their friends to lose their jobs too. Victims went to work for their employer because they believed in the mission, need the work, and want to work there. Talking about the hundreds of thousands of dollars at play in a harassment lawsuit doesn’t provide comfort, it adds to the load.
In training, I’m doing my darndest to encourage targets of harassment to tell HR or any manager about what is happening. Trying to reduce the burdens of reporting, encouraging co-workers to help, promising retaliation will not happen, and that HR is a safe place for them to go. Taking a hard left to “your report could cost this organization tons of money” is halting transition without out much benefit.
The required remedies discussion was probably designed to scare harassers. It should! But by and large, employers are on the hook for the money, not the individual harasser. The harasser is rarely held to account. They may lose their jobs, but they don’t owe restitution to the victim or even the employer. It is the organization and its employees who suffer most through the time and resources taken up by a lawsuit. Yes, in many cases, the organization needed to do better to protect employees, but spelling out its possible demise is not going to convince a victim to raise their voice.
Employers need to do better without a doubt. And, a good training is a great step. Scaring victims even more is not the answer. Dear Legislators, please understand this and let me do my job. I really like it, and I’m pretty good at it.
End rant. Thank you.