Curbing Sexual Harassment with Diversity Training and Other Measures

Workplace discrimination and harassment are serious problems in the modern workplace. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 67,448 charges in 2020. This article looks into workplace discrimination and harassment and how modern organizations address these problems using diversity training and other measures.

Workplace Discrimination and Sexual Harassment

People often use the terms discrimination and harassment interchangeably, they’re different in some important ways. Often, discrimination is also referred to racism in the workplace. Discrimination occurs when a person receives unfair treatment because they are a member of a protected group based on

  • Age
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Pregnancy
  • Physical or mental disabilities

Harassment refers to a pattern of behavior toward members of the above groups. It may be sexual, physical or verbal and falls under two broad categories: hostile work environment and quid pro quo. Harassment may also fall under the following categories.

  • Physical harassment
  • Sexual harassment
  • Cyber harassment
  • Verbal harassment
  • Retaliatory harassment

Harassment severely corrodes workplace morale and often leads to psychological harm in the form of guilt, shame, clinical depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Responsible organizations use various measures, such as diversity, to address discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

Using Diversity Training to Address Workplace Discrimination and Harassment

As the modern workplace becomes increasingly multicultural, organizations seek to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace through diversity training. This training helps to prevent workplace discrimination and harassment in the following ways.

  • The occurrence of harassment diminishes as a workplace becomes increasingly diverse.
  • Diversity and sexual harassment training help people within the organizations to recognize their implicit biases and how unconscious stereotypes affect their behavior.
  • Diversity training promotes cultural competency, which makes employees open to diverse groups and minimizes destructive interactions.
  • Diversity training promotes workplaces sensitivity, respect, and civility, which in turn result in positive, productive interactions among employees.

Ultimately, diversity training creates opportunities for organizations to promote inclusive thinking, reinforce shared values and overcome unconscious biases and stereotypes.

Other Measures for Overcoming Workplace Discrimination and Sexual Harassment

Besides diversity training, organizations can take several other measures to address discrimination and harassment in the workplace. To begin with, they should realize that having zero reports of discrimination and harassment doesn’t necessarily indicate the absence of these problems in the workplace.

The zero complaints may be due to employees’ lack of awareness of their legal rights and avenues for making formal complaints. Furthermore, victims of workplace discrimination and harassment fail to make a formal complaint to avoid embarrassment, retaliation, or the often-lengthy legal process.

Organizations can address these concerns by setting up an anonymous internal complaint system to

  • Make employees aware of their legal rights through sexual harassment training
  • Spare victims the embarrassment of the ordeal
  • Create a safe environment to share their concerns free of judgment and retaliation

These complaint systems work when organizations react to complaints promptly, calmly and discreetly. The organizations should thoroughly investigate complaints, take disciplinary action where necessary and follow through with remedial measures to prevent future cases of discrimination and harassment.

Promoting Positive, Productive Workplaces

Discrimination and harassment continue to plague modern workplaces. Thankfully, effective implementation of measures such as diversity training and effective complaint systems can help overcome these problems and promote positive and productive workplace interactions.

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