When I tell people I work for a company that makes employee training videos, their typical reaction is a loud groan with eye-rolls and a story about a horrible video on sexual harassment they are “forced” to watch every year. It’s true, they think I am the one to blame! Stories include details about the 1980’s video quality, and awkward role-plays portrayed by amateur actors. Other stories mention the embarrassing and uncomfortable role-plays they were required to act out with their coworkers! I quickly reassure them that sexual harassment training for employees does not have to be painful or cringeworthy to be effective.  

Harassment Training is Required by Law

Anti-harassment training requirements vary by state, but companies with as few as 3 employees have been required by law to conduct training on sexual harassment for years. Compliance training pre-dates #MeToo and #TimesUp. Over the years, many states have passed their own laws regarding state-specific training requirements. These include California, Connecticut, Maine, New York City, and New York State. Illinois and Delaware come into play in 2020.  

For years, many companies have had the “checkbox” mentality to satisfy the requirements of the law on harassment training, but we’ve all seen the news. The problem with that mentality is that it doesn’t stop the problem. In the past it’s been seen as a nuisance. Because of the bad behavior of a few, the rest of us have to go through this painful, cringeworthy training. The bare minimum has not prevented the bad behavior. The bare minimum has allowed the problem to fester and grow. We have a whitepaper that explores the idea that compliance training is more than a checkbox

So, what the collective “we” have been doing for 50 years is not working and it is not good enough.  What do we change? Maybe awkward and outdated videos are laughable. Maybe the uncomfortable roleplays are distracting and not effective. Employees can tell how much effort an organization puts into compliance training. If the company doesn’t take it seriously, why should they?

What does effective harassment training for employees look like? 

Explain the law


Define harassment

Harassment training does not only mean training on sexual harassment. All employees need to understand the official definition of harassment. Unwelcome conduct becomes harassment when it’s based on someone’s race, color, religion, sex, including pregnancy, national origin, disability, or genetic information.

Unique content for managers

Managers need to know they are responsible for creating and maintaining a safe work environment for their team. They set the tone and represent the culture of the company. It’s the manager’s job to prevent, monitor, and remediate any potential harassment as soon as possible. 

How to write and communicate a policy

Some of ej4’s clients are emerging and growing to a company size with new levels of compliance requirements and need help writing a harassment policy. Our course will help your HR team to write, communicate, and train your harassment policy. It will give you a solid foundation on the issue so you are better prepared to speak to your legal team about the local laws.

Tips to investigate complaints

All employees can watch this course so they understand the nature of an investigation and that there are rules to follow. The person or team responsible for investigating complaints must fit specific criteria and go through special training.

Help people truly understand the issue

One of the ways our ej4 content stands out in a crowded field of harassment training is our ability to unpack an issue so employees can understand it and apply what they’ve learned immediately. With the topic of harassment, this deeper understanding can get at the root of the issue and help employees be more aware of the behavior that leads to harassment so they can stop it before it becomes a problem.

I should also mention the creative story in this series. Many issues around harassment reside in a grey area so the color palette is mostly grey and white. A common misperception around harassment is that it is about sex. Our lesson explains that it is more about power, so we use images of robots and puppets to illustrate this point. 

Our series breaks down the following topics for employees in a straightforward manner without any awkward actors in uncomfortable scenarios.  

  • Understand offenders
  • Understand targets
  • Bystander training
  • Warning signs
  • Healthy culture

Meet the state-specific requirements

If you have employees in the following states, you must follow the state-specific harassment training requirements:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • New York City
  • New York State
  • Illinois
  • Delaware

Working with a partner like ej4 can take some of the burdens off of your team to ensure your organization is fully compliant. Especially, if you are a training department of one!  

Additional supporting topics

When you have a full library of off-the-shelf training content, you have many additional courses to offer to your employees to foster a culture where everyone can feel safe and respected.  

  • Respect: A more respectful culture can help to prevent harassment from occurring. This series explores how to be liked at work in a professional way, how to earn respect, and how to work with someone you dislike. 
  • Fun at work: Employees with good intentions can make inappropriate or offensive jokes. These courses explore humor in the workplace and explain what is and isn’t funny. Harassment can begin with unwelcome jokes so these courses can be very helpful. 
  • Unconscious Bias: The idea with this series is to make people aware of their own biases that may affect how they treat (or mistreat) coworkers. 
  • LGBTQ In the Workplace: If you have more than 20 employees, you likely have a member of the LGBTQ community. Offering these training topics can help everyone better understand each other and feel safe. 
  • Cross-Cultural Considerations: Today’s diverse workforce comes with a greater need for cultural intelligence. This series covers topics around your culture, the concept of time, and workplace basics. 

Additional Resources


Kathy Irish

Written by Kathy Irish

Kathy joined ej4 in 2007 as our first Instructional Designer. She has over 15 years’ experience in Human Resource Management, Training and Organizational Development. In addition to managing and planning ej4’s yearly new content development, Kathy also oversees all the production on updates (both legal and style-wise) to current off-the-shelf content.

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