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March 11, 2020

Help Employees Understand Their Rights and Roles in State-Approved Anti-Harassment Programs

Help Employees Understand Their Rights and Roles in State-Approved Anti-Harassment Programs featured image

What should employers keep in mind about harassment prevention training?

The state flag of Illinois.

Illinois is the latest state to implement specific harassment training requirements.

Wherever your company operates, it’s important to examine the harassment-prevention rules for that area. Even in states without their own specific harassment policy specifications, it’s incumbent upon employers to make sure they are providing a safe and secure workplace for their employees. In addition, many states have recently tightened their requirements around required actions by company owners. Businesses should make sure they’re taking decisive action to get in line with these laws as they take effect to avoid incurring the resulting fines.
Illinois has joined the group of states with specific harassment prevention statutes, like New York and California. Taking this state’s new policies as an example is a good introduction to the general concept of meeting anti-harassment requirements. Regardless of location, employers must focus on key priorities such as clarifying each person’s role in handling and responding to reports of harassment problems.

What Does Illinois Require?

By the end of 2020, every employer in Illinois will have to provide annual training to staff on how to create a safe workplace free of harassing behavior or hostility. The Illinois Department of Human Rights was tasked with creating the model policy organizations can base their own efforts on. The annual sessions must be accompanied by written prevention policy and supplemental training modules. Companies that choose not to create their own policies are allowed to customize efforts that match the minimum requirements set out by the state.
While some states specify small companies are exempt from their harassment training rules, Illinois does not. Every business that employs one person or more has to train staff in roles, responsibilities and best practices. The specific curriculum of these programs must summarize the rules and give specific examples of conduct that is disallowed under the law. Furthermore, companies have to be clear about what recourse is available to workers who feel they have been harassed on the job or otherwise experienced a hostile work environment.
The state’s policy indicates that once the December 31 compliance date passes, employees should be trained as soon as possible after hire. This is an important move from a liability perspective because new workers qualify for the policy immediately once they join an organization. Everyone should understand what their responsibilities are under the law.
The concept of making every person clear on what he or she should contribute to creating a safe workplace is a best practice that goes beyond Illinois and is worth discussing in detail.

A supervisor touches an employee inappropritaely.Every employee has a role to play in creating a harassment-free workplace.

What Are the Best Practices of Establishing Individual Harassment Prevention Roles?

Every person who works at a given company has harassment-prevention duties under the law, and these vary based on what the individual’s role at the organization is. Supervisors must know how to confidentially and effectively process reports of harassment, while workers of all levels need to know how to access the reporting systems available to them. Since the ultimate goal of a harassment prevention program is to stop incidents before they ever occur, departmental leaders should be trained to spot early warning signs of trouble and create team structures that create a culture of openness and respect.
Being a worker means having a set of rights — no matter the state, these include the ability to complete work without being harassed or discriminated against. Managers must be sure they are providing an environment where those rights are honored, and inappropriate conduct is not tolerated. There must also be reporting policies that kick in when the regular lines of communication fail. For instance, what if a direct supervisor is the one committing the unacceptable behavior?

What Form Does Modern Harassment Training Take?

The era of easy-to-use digital training with a strong video component has transformed the process of employee education, allowing companies to teach their teams important practices in a quicker and more effective way. Today’s providers are committed to meeting new requirements as they emerge, such as by creating specific content that targets the new harassment prevention laws in Illinois.
Many video courses maximize their messaging by dividing content into multiple modules, some targeting leaders and others for workers at every level. These materials establish the norms of a harassment-free workplace and explain each person’s rights and role under the law. Facing the need to train new employees quickly in 2020 and beyond, using a video-based program can be the quickest and easiest way to get these workers up to speed.
In many cases, companies will find value in additional training modules designed to create a more suitable culture in the office. This can mean focusing on specific types of harassment such as religious or LGBT+ discrimination or tackling broader topics such as respect.
In every state and every industry, harassment prevention training helps companies create a mutually agreeable relationship with their workers. No worker should be subjected to a hostile environment, and having sufficient training is a key way to ensure no one is ignorant of the related rules.

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