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California sexual harassment cases bring training under scrutiny

Some California universities have redoubled efforts at anti-harassment training following recent scandals. New studies show, however, that mandated training is not effective in preventing sexual misconduct, and that it seems to protect the business but not the employees. While employers often respond to complaints of sexual harassment with more training, evidence suggests that these courses do not change behaviors.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported that many harassment seminars emphasize protecting the company from legal ramifications rather than focusing on changing discriminatory actions or attitudes. Research also suggests that courses may reinforce stereotypes and desensitize people when it comes to recognizing unacceptable behavior. Some find that co-workers do not take the courses seriously and may make jokes or mock the purpose of the training.

Apparently it was not sanctions that caused two eminent academics to resign from their positions after being accused of sexually harassing subordinates. Instead, public outcry over the lack of punishment they received seems to have been the catalyst. Some feel that this inconsistency in holding offenders accountable contributes to the atmosphere of hostility in universities and other workplaces across the country. Conversely, predictable consequences for harassers may be more effective in preventing discriminatory behavior than training initiatives

Being a victim of sexual harassment at work can make one feel helpless. When a California employee feels objectified by a co-worker or superior, it may seem that he or she has no recourse, especially if there is a pattern of implied consent among supervisors. However, when those who are harassed contact an experienced attorney, they often find answers to their questions and an advocate for the protection of their rights in the workplace.

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

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