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  • Developing Sexual Harassment Training for Interns, Employees

    February 19, 2018 | By NACE Staff

    Internships
    Interns and employees undergo sexual harassment training.

    TAGS: best practices, internships, spotlight, students

    Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals

    Last winter, two professors in the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh (UWO) College of Business began developing a sexual harassment training program for students enrolled in the college’s professional skills class. The class prepares business students for internships by developing skills such as networking and interviewing.

    The professors—Shannon Rawski, assistant professor, and Sarah DeArmond, associate professor and co-chair, Department of Management and Human Resources in the UWO College of Business—saw the need for the training to address concerns that:

    • Students might be especially vulnerable as targets of sexual harassment because they typically lack power in organizations;
    • Students may be unaware that they are protected from sexual harassment during their internships by employment law and university policy; and
    • Student interns may unintentionally engage in inappropriate or harassing behaviors if they have never been formally educated that those behaviors are not acceptable in the workplace.   

    Rawski and DeArmond also recognized that students are more likely to talk with other students about their day-to-day internship experiences.

    “By educating students on the laws, policies, and social psychology of sexual harassment, we hoped to better prepare students to provide social support to each other as a first line of defense against internship harassment,” DeArmond says.

    Their training is based on recommendations from the EEOC, the university's anti-sexual harassment policy, and research on sexual harassment and sexual harassment training.

    “We not only cover the legal definitions of sexual harassment, but we also address psychological definitions of harassment, which we point out may not necessarily substantiate a legal case of harassment, but could still be problematic and harmful in the workplace,” Rawski notes.

    Rawski and DeArmond offer several strategies for employers to incorporate into their training to increase their interns’ and employees’ knowledge about sexual harassment and related policies, and improve their abilities to identify sexual harassment in internship scenarios:

    • Provide interns and employees with multiple perspectives on sexual harassment—For instance, your training should cover the legal definitions of sexual harassment, but also educate interns and employees on the psychological definition and specific organizational policies.
    • Give several different types of scenarios as examples—Some trainings only give examples of men harassing women, but sexual harassment can also involve women harassing men, men harassing men, or women harassing women. It’s important that interns and employees recognize the many different forms sexual harassment can take so they can more easily identify sexual harassment when they observe or experience it.
    • Inform interns and employees what happens after complaints are filed—Fear of the unknown about what happens next can prevent them from making reports.
    • Give interns and employees multiple response options—Targets of harassment should be empowered to choose the response that’s right for them. Not every target wants to make a formal report immediately, so informing interns and employees that they can engage in other less-formal responses, such as seeking advice from a professional mentor, can help them respond in a way that’s best for them. The same goes for providing interns and employees with multiple options if they are a bystander (e.g., intervening in the moment, intervening after the fact, formally reporting) and options for accused harassers (e.g., stopping the offensive behavior, seeking formal mediation from HR).
    • Evaluate the training provided—Ensure it results in positive training outcomes and is not resulting in unintended negative outcomes.