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What you can do to better protect and properly inform your employees.

There’s no question that many people in the pumps industry are facing delays and uncertainties caused by COVID-19. That said, current circumstances do not make sexual harassment training any less important. Regular training is an opportunity to reinforce company values, principles and culture, and foster the right behaviors that can help retain qualified employees and attract new ones as the economy recovers. 

Pump companies in the United States should also be aware of the states requiring employers to train employees on sexual harassment prevention. Currently, states with upcoming training deadlines include: California (Jan. 1, 2021), Connecticut (Oct. 1, 2020), Illinois (Dec. 31, 2020) and New York/NYC (mandatory annual training). Both Maine and Delaware require employees to be trained within one year of hire.

In recent years, new approaches to harassment training are transforming the check-the-box model into a modern, interactive learning experience that focuses on behavior—teaching employees what is and isn’t acceptable, the consequences of misconduct, and their role in creating a respectful, inclusive workplace culture.

For a more engaging and effective harassment training program, consider these six tips:

1. Tailor Content to the Industry

Regular, interactive training that reflects the organization and its workforce is one of the core principles that have proven effective in preventing and addressing harassment, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) task force on workplace harassment. With a variety of e-learning and video tools available, online compliance training can engage employees with industry-specific video scenarios, images and examples that add relevance and authenticity. And including a video message from the chief executive officer (CEO) or senior leader further reinforces the organization’s commitment to a harassment-free workplace.

2. Raise Awareness of Different Forms of Harassment

Sexual harassment—whether it occurs in the office, on the jobsite, on a video conference or social media—is not limited to unwanted physical contact. Offensive comments about a person’s sex or about women in general can also constitute illegal harassment. The EEOC defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other conduct of a sexual nature that directly or indirectly interferes with an individual’s work, creates a hostile work environment or is made a term or condition of employment. And anyone can be a harasser or target of harassment — including customers, clients, inspectors and vendors — regardless of their sex or gender.

3. Teach Bystander Intervention Tactics

Before the #MeToo era, bystander intervention training was mostly found in the military and on college campuses as a tactic to prevent sexual assault. Today, workplace experts consider bystander intervention one of the most effective ways to stop misconduct before it rises to the level of illegal harassment and discrimination. Teaching employees different ways to safely step in and speak up while or after witnessing incidents can help defuse potentially harmful situations and prevent future incidents. And when active bystanders show support and empathy they are being allies for targets of harassment. Allies in the workplace are important because they help create a more positive, inclusive environment.

4. Promote Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Training employees and managers on what they can do to support a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace also helps organizations prevent harassment and discrimination, manage unconscious or implicit bias and foster civility and respect. Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) goes beyond gender, encompassing people of different races, cultures, ages, abilities, experiences, sexual orientations and ideas. 

5. Encourage Reporting

Many incidents of sexual harassment go unreported, which can lead to a toxic work environment. Training can serve as a communications tool to explain the company’s complaint process for reporting incidents or potential problems, and reassure employees that their complaints will be taken seriously and they won't be retaliated against. Managers who may handle reports of harassment should receive additional training on how to promptly respond to harassment complaints, and avoid any actions that could be considered retaliatory against individuals who report harassment or participate in an investigation.

6. Offer Mobile-Optimized Training for 24/7 Access

Whether in the office, on the jobsite or working from home, employees want to be able to access training anytime, on any device. Mobile technology also enables human resource (HR) managers to easily assign new courses, monitor employees’ progress, and send out reminders, updates and bite-size videos throughout the year.

With the support of business owners and managers who lead by example, a modern, interactive training program is an important step in preventing harassment and other misconduct and creating a respectful, inclusive workplace culture in which all employees feel that they belong.

(The EEOC provides online resources about the different types of workplace discrimination and harassment and other legal requirements employers should know about).