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What are the sexual harassment training requirements for employers?


HR Best Practices blog series

Navigating the world of HR can be overwhelming—period. That’s why we’ve created a blog series to answer common HR questions. To help answer each question and define best practices, we have three HR heroes with very different approaches to HR: Bythe Booke, Sam Blackheart, and Peggy Prag. You may find yourself relating to one (or more) of our heroes depending on the given situation. To see full descriptions of each character, reference our first blog of the series using this link.

Last time we covered, “Do I have to send an offer letter? Now, let’s see what Bythe, Sam, and Peggy have to say about our next question, "Do I have to do sexual harassment training?"



The #MeToo movement, alongside numerous sexual harassment lawsuits filed by the EEOC, have increased discussion of sexual harassment in the workplace and measures that should be taken to prevent it.  So, what are employers’ legal obligations when it comes to sexual harassment training? Are employers required to provide sexual harassment training to employees?

Is there a law and/or regulation?

There is no federal law requiring employers to offer sexual harassment training to employees. Certain states and cities such as California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New York state and New York City legally require employers to provide sexual harassment training to employees.

Likewise, employers are not legally obligated to maintain a sexual harassment policy, but the EEOC highly recommends keeping an internal sexual harassment policy in order to prevent and correct cases of sexual harassment.

Companies with a history of sexual harassment claims may also be required to conduct sexual harassment training in order to prevent future episodes of misconduct.  For instance, Judge David R. Herndon issued a decree that required IHOP to provide sexual harassment training to employees in addition to nearly $1 million in damages.

Is there a risk of a lawsuit?

There is no risk of a lawsuit for failure to offer sexual harassment training unless specific to state or city law. In the case of a sexual harassment lawsuit, proof of sexual harassment training in combination with a documented policy and history of corrective action can protect the employer against punitive damages. Learn more.


What's the cost of compliance?

There is no cost of compliance.

What is the risk of bodily harm?

There is medium risk of bodily harm. Companies that do not provide sexual harassment training run the risk of sexual misconduct, which may result in bodily and/or emotional harm.


What is the risk of negative public relations?

The risk of negative public relations is low unless a claim is filed. If a sexual harassment claim is filed against an employer, the risk of negative public relations increases significantly.


What is the risk of jail time?

There is no risk of jail time.


What would our HR Heroes say is the best practice?



 Bythe Booke: Sure, we’re not required to provide sexual harassment training to our employees, but it seems a little foolish not to. Let’s require all employees to undergo sexual harassment training upon hire. We can use a certified online course to make it as simple as possible.




 Sam Blackheart: It seems like sexual harassment training involves quite a bit of effort to organize considering the relatively low risk. Let’s forgo sexual harassment training requirements and continue to update our sexual harassment policy each year per EEOC guidelines.


iStock-165967112Peggy Prag: As a small business owner with no history of sexual harassment at my company, sexual harassment training seems a little excessive. We have a sexual harassment policy that all employees sign upon hire and I’m comfortable leaving it at that.


Have a question you’d like to see our heroes answer next? Let us know in the comments section below!

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