For now, at least, it appears as if the steady stream of sexual harassment cases and allegations will never cease. Celebrities, public figures, and politicians are no longer immune. This new attention and renewed awareness is good. It's a reminder that sexual harassment in the workplace is not something that anyone should have to tolerate to earn a living.
It's also a reminder that the status quo on harassment prevention and training is not good enough. Most large employers in California know that the state requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide sexual harassment prevention training to all supervisors in California. The training must take place within six months of hire or promotion and every two years thereafter.
A good requirement to be sure, but what's missing? First of all, sexual harassment does not occur only at employers with 50 or more employees. Additionally, what good does training for a supervisor do if the supervisor is the one doing the harassing? All employees need to understand that sexual and other forms of harassment are intolerable in the workplace, and they need to know that there is an effective means of reporting harassment without fear of retaliation. Simply having a policy in a handbook or a poster on the wall is often not enough. Finally, why train only once every two years? Employers should do far more than the minimum to create a culture of mutual respect and professionalism. It's not simply a legal problem, it's often a culture problem that requires a cultural solution.
All employers should take this opportunity to revisit their policies and training practices around the topic of sexual harassment. Not only will it help prevent lawsuits, it's simply the right thing to do.