Although state laws vary regarding whether harassment training is required or not, there are good business reasons to train all employees. Besides helping to encourage professional behavior, create a comfortable working environment, and improve morale, training is deemed essential by courts and enforcement agencies. Training will help you:
Reduce Claims: Training can do more than deliver information. It can change behavior. And, changing behavior is the most cost-effective way to avoid the risk. Some studies show a 40% reduction in claims.
Assert Affirmative Defense: In 1998, the US Supreme Court declared (EEOC agreed) that employers should "periodically" train employees. And, if they do train and an employee makes a claim, the employer may be able to avoid liability even if the alleged bad conduct occurred. Similarly, under the California "avoidable consequences" doctrine, employers that provide anti-harassment training will not be liable for harm if an "employee acted unreasonably in not sooner reporting the harassment to the employer."
Avoid Punitive Damages: The Court also stated that if employees win a claim for harassment or discrimination, employers may avoid punitive damages if they show that they made a good faith effort to comply with the law (train employees). Policy statements and handbooks are not enough.
Follow EEOC Guidelines: Significantly, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says it expects employers to train all workers. According to EEOC Guidelines, "the employer should provide training to all employees to ensure that they understand their rights and responsibilities."