By Mark Dorosz
VP of Compliance Learning, Interactive Services
In October 2018, New York will be the first jurisdiction to make sexual harassment training mandatory for all employees regardless of tenure, seniority and – crucially – firm size.
For over a decade, states such as Connecticut, Maine and most notably California have placed training requirements on companies, but New York is the first to extend the mandate to organizations with less than 15 employees. The legislation also expands the remit to include contractors, consultants and suppliers.
In the absence of standardized federal requirements, Compliance leaders are moving fast to adapt to the new legislative environment to meet New York State’s 2018 October deadline, with more states set to sign similar legislation into law this year.
Let’s start with the good news: materially the training requirements are similar across states, with small variations limited to training cadence, audience, and local statute.
What Training Requirements Are Common Across States
|Instructional Requirements||Common to all states|||Across the country, state legislation calls for |interactive learning, with training design left |to the discretion of the company rolling out |the program.|
|Primary Content||Common to all states||The backbone of an effective curriculum is common across all 50 states, covering essentials such as:
Where the programs materially differ is not in the primary content but audience, cadence, duration, and the final mile: local state and city ordinances
How the Key States Differ in their Training Requirements
|Size||50+ employees||50+ employees||15 employees||All firms|
|Audience||Supervisors||Supervisors||All employees||All employees|
|Cadence||Every 2 years||Upon hiring||Upon hiring||Every year|
|Duration||2 hours||2 hours||Unspecified||Unspecified|
|Local State Law||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Here are 5 steps for rolling out a successful anti-harassment program to US employees in 2018-19.
#1 You only need two programs for all 50 states
Training requirements can be satisfied across all 50 states with just two well designed courses, negating the need to manage and update multiple programs. This is critical when you factor in keeping programs current and instructionally fresh.
- 2-Hour Supervisor Program with support for state-specific statutes for California and Connecticut
- 1-Hour Employee Program with support for state-specific statutes for California, Connecticut, Maine, and New York
#2 Keep your role profiling simple
Your course should have a simple mechanism to displaying the final mile of local legislation – that 5% of content specific to a state, i.e., local jurisdiction on punitive measures and remediation available to victims. This local requirement can be satisfactorily achieved with three simple mechanisms:
- Accompanying state-specific PDF facts sheets to the eLearning, summarizing locale statutes
- Simple explore interactions that allow learners to review state information relevant to them
- A role-profiler that automatically presents information specific to the learner’s home state
The second option, while the least prescriptive, is likely the best. Explore interactions meet the needs of learners who work and manage teams across multiple states, allowing them to familiarize themselves with the state laws where they interact with their teammates. So even if I am based in Maine, it benefits me to be aware of Connecticut’s jurisdiction if I supervise a teammate in that state, even if only virtually.
#3 Think about a 360 campaign
New York City is set to go one step further than state programs and mandate by the Spring of 2019 that firms provide harassment prevention training and….
- Harassment prevention posters
- Harassment prevention checklist issued to all new hires
- Record of attestation that each employee will adhere to the code
Regardless of legal obligation, this holistic approach adds minimal burden to an organization, while taking training beyond a one-time experience, and shapes how the company is run.
#4 Focus on your training calendar
The biggest variance across states is the required training cadence. For example, California requires managers to be trained every two years, while New York will require all employees to be trained annually, regardless of seniority.
While well designed training assets can be used nationally across states, consider running state learning campaigns that coincide with the local state calendar requirements. For example, if your team in California is due for its biennial harassment training – use this as an opportunity to run broader awareness campaigns helping to boost training completion rates and raise awareness in a meaningful way.
#5 It’s more than box ticking
Finally, with all the discussion of seat time, state codes, and annual requirements, it’s easy to forget a workplace free from harassment benefits the people we care about in our daily lives. Good learning design is key. Here are three golden rules of effective compliance training:
- Treat your learners like adults who want to contribute to a respectful workplace – 99% of employees want to do the right thing.
- Be smart about how you engage your learner’s attention – use well written and authentic interactions rather than relying on gimmicks or humor.
- Make the learning relevant with realistic scenarios employees can identify with; training should go beyond the binary nature of legislative code and instead focus on the grey areas of compliance if we are to contribute towards ending workplace harassment in a meaningful way.