Could Sexual Harassment Training Have Saved Bob Filner?

by NAVEX Global
Contact

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner is facing escalating sexual harassment accusations from 13 of his own female employees – each, I’m sure, with their own tales to tell. And while these types of accusations occur in all types professions and to different degrees, he is among the first to claim that – because he did not receive formal sexual harassment training from the city – the city should be responsible for his legal costs and should be liable for ‘failing to prevent harassment.’ This is all according to a letter from Filner’s attorney).

Nice deflection.  And turns out their claims may not even be true, but they bring up some very interesting issues …

When leaders and executives do not engage in the same training programs as their employees, they leave their organizations in significant legal jeopardy.  And they also fail to embody core values at the very top of an organization, leading to dangerous gaps in culture and accountability.

When leaders of companies, governments and other organizations are accused of sexual harassment, many questions often get overlooked:

  • Who is responsible for ensuring all employees, including executives and leaders, participate in compliance and ethics programs?
  • What’s the protocol when leaders of companies have the power to not participate in the same training programs as their employees?
  • How does an organization avoid executive subterfuge – i.e. when a high ranking employee has their assistant complete a training program for them, or demands IT mark something “complete?”  (Yes, sadly, this does not happen infrequently.)

The buck stops here for leaders. In the wake of a scandal,company leaders are the first to be blamed, regardless of their involvement. Even worse, if they are the ones accused, they often face the most reputational loss and the highest level of scrutiny. When a leader gets in trouble, they fail their employees, stakeholders and the public, causing irreparable harm to their company’s character.

Company leaders should take responsibility. Directors, executives, board members, presidents in all industries often find that compliance training takes too much time or is too inconvenient.  There are always a hundred other priorities that can be justified ahead of a training effort.  The answer is to make training non-negotiable.  Period.  There should be serious consequences for failing to take training, including potential compensation-related ramifications.

Then, ethics and compliance programming should be targeted to a leader’s specific needs, both in terms of content and delivery.  At NAVEX Global, we have found offering shorter online training “bursts,” designed specifically for an executive audience and available 24/7 online (including mobile access), drastically improves participation and engagement.

Not enough hours in the day and the “live training trap.” Compliance officers, in house counsels, human resource managers and workplace ethics committees are not only challenged with day-to-day risk assessment and prevention programs, but also are acutely aware that their harassment training programs may not target their employees’ needs equally, which opens the organization up to significant risk. When the average company has only four to six hours each year to train employees on workplace policies, organizations struggle to ensure complete employee engagement and understanding of their workplace’s code of conduct.

With company leaders, there is often even less time to dedicate to meaningful training programs – but for some reason, there is an assumption that executive-level training must always be highly custom and always done in person.  This results in a no-win loop, because live training is extremely expensive and requires a much more significant time investment than online training.  I have seen many organizations struggle with this assumption, and then conclude by doing nothing. 

A highly implementable best practice is to have leaders take the same online training as all employees, and then supplement with an overlay of online executive-level learning.  (And yes, with advances in technology, instructional design and multimedia capabilities, you can deploy excellent and engaging online training that makes a real impact, and that actually forces engagement in a way that live training cannot.)

The reality is that no workplace is totally immune to harassment claims, but organizations must be vigilant about three key things:

  • CoverageEveryone takes effective harassment training – from the Board to the most junior, entry-level employees.  And don’t forget about your contingent workforce – part-timers, contractors etc. 
  • Cadence – Training is not a one-time event.  Best practice is to train every year and, at minimum, every 24 months.
  • Consistency – Training must embody consistent messaging and content, to ensure the same core values and rules are clear to the entire workforce.  This can then be supplemented with additional content and messaging for specialized groups – like executives.

In addition, to the behavioral and cultural return on investment, training – done properly – can provide an organization with powerful legal defenses in the event of a lawsuit.  It will be interesting to see how Filner’s attempts to use lack of sexual harassment training as a personal defensive shield will pan out.  I can’t imagine it will garner much public sympathy.

Written by:

NAVEX Global
Contact
more
less

NAVEX Global on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.
Feedback? Tell us what you think of the new jdsupra.com!