What You Should Know About Workplace Compliance Training
For most companies, the risk of litigation for not complying with workplace discrimination and harassment laws is often enough of an incentive to create effective compliance programs. But if employees don’t know what behavior to avoid, they are more likely to engage in conduct that crosses the line and leads to allegations of workplace discrimination and harassment that holds the employer liable.
Reducing the risk of litigation is the very least that compliance training should do.
An Effective Compliance Program Mitigates the Risk of Liability
Compliance with the laws against workplace discrimination and harassment is important to avoid liability.
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published Enforcement & Litigation Statistics, which highlight that in 2018 they received 7,609 charges of “harassment of a sexual nature” which cost employers $56.6 million total—the greatest amount of monetary damages since 2010.
The EEOC enforces Title VII and other federal laws that prohibit workplace discrimination and harassment, but there is no federal mandate requiring private employers to provide sexual harassment prevention training. Six states have passed legislation to do just that and in those states the stakes are even higher.
Compliance Training Starts With Company Culture
In the influential 2016 Report of the Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace (the Report), the EEOC recommends that effective harassment prevention programs start with company culture and “tone at the top,” in their policies and practices—not just on paper. Policies should comply not just with the letter of the law, but with its spirit. The report also calls for ongoing training to effectively communicate and reinforce these workplace discriminations and harassment policies—again, in letter and spirit.
The letter of the law lays down the bare minimum standards to comply. The spirit of the law entails building and reinforcing a culture that fosters a positive workplace and prevents workplace harassment and discrimination—addressing misconduct before it rises to the level of illegality.
The EEOC’s Report is calling for a prevention approach. Employers need to get their house in order, practice prevention every day, and then use training to help keep it top of mind to reduce the risk of litigation. This means that compliance is an ongoing process with effective training as a vital component or preventing workplace discrimination and harassment. It is not a “one-and-done” deal.
Effective Compliance Programs are not “One & Done” Deals
In the last two years, several states have clarified and strengthened the laws regarding the actions for which employers can be held liable when supervisors or other employees engage in workplace discrimination and harassment.
For example, in 2019, both Delaware and New York State broadened the definition of sexual harassment. Delaware implicitly, and New York explicitly, no longer follow the federal “severe or pervasive” standard of harassment. In 2018, California specified that even a single harassing comment can give rise to a sexual harassment claim. Most training mandates include the jurisdiction’s law defining sexual harassment, so it’s important that training providers keep up with and incorporate these definitions into their training program.
The laws are changing constantly so training providers must be vigilant in keeping courses compliant and up-to-date. While the best practice is to employ staff attorneys to track changes to applicable laws and maintain mandated training, most training providers outsource this core mission of compliance training.
Look for Compliance Training in Letter & Spirit
When evaluating a training provider, employers should look for training that directly meets the law (the letter of the law), but also for training that reinforces the employers’ policies and positive workplace culture (the spirit of the law). EVERFI makes it easy for employers to include their own policies and procedures, custom content, and, most fundamentally, complies with applicable state and local training mandates. We take this approach to mitigate the risk of liability, and to maintain employers’ workplace culture. In other words, a trusted solution to incorporate compliance both in letter and in spirit.