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Is sexual harassment training contributing to the problem?

A study from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission notes that sexual harassment training that has become traditional in many workplaces during the past few decades isn't as effective as many people think. In fact, the studies indicate that in some cases, the training might be counterproductive.

According to the EEOC, training in corporate and university environments tends to revolve around limiting the legal risks associated with sexual harassment incidents. That training might include information on identifying sexual harassment, how to report and deal with it and how organizations and managers can mitigate exposure. What it doesn't do, says the EEOC, is actually curb the instances of misconduct in the first place.

Researchers have noted that traditional sexual harassment training may actually make some situations worse. They note that sexual harassment training as it is rolled out in many organizations actually reinforces certain gender stereotypes. It might also increase the likelihood that coworkers and others discount reports from victims and make participants -- particularly men -- less able to perceive when behavior is not appropriate.

There aren't any easy answers to this conundrum, but researchers and others are beginning to call for a change in the way sexual harassment is taught about and addressed in workplaces and schools. The EEOC commission says that a lot of training being conducted isn't working, and something needs to change.

As companies work toward a better understanding of and training for sexual harassment, victims are still experiencing threatening work environments and quid pro quo situations. If you are dealing with such a situation and haven't found assistance within your workplace, consider reaching out to an employment law professional to discuss your options.

Source: The Guardian, "Sexual harassment training 'not as effective' in stopping behavior at work," Sam Levin, June 28, 2016

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