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NORRISTOWN, PA - APRIL 26: Bill Cosby (C) departs the Montgomery County Courthouse with his publicist, Andrew Wyatt, after being found guilty on all counts in his sexual assault retrial on April 26, 2018 in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Cosby was found guilty on all accounts after a former Temple University employee alleges that the entertainer drugged and molested her in 2004 at his home in suburban Philadelphia. More than 40 women have accused the 80 year old entertainer of sexual assault. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

Companies Lack Sexual Harassment Training

Despite recent media attention, companies fail to protect workers from sexual harassment.

Roger Ailes. Harvey Weinstein. Matt Lauer.

With so many high-profile alleged cases of sexual harassment in the news, a new survey states that employers still are not taking steps to prevent and address the widespread issue.

A mere 32 percent of American workers say the company for which they work does not provide adequate resources to prevent and address sexual harassment, according to the survey administered by the American Psychological Association (APA).

The most common response to a claim was to remind employees about existing training or resources, rather than strict action, according to 18 percent of respondents.

"The #MeToo movement has given business leaders an opportunity to finally take real action addressing a complex problem that has been pervasive for generations," David W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA, director of APA's Center for Organizational Excellence, in a statement. "Our survey – as well as anecdotal reports – shows that too few employers are making comprehensive efforts that can have significant impact. Avoiding the issue is bad for employee well-being and business, but so, too, is a narrow, compliance-based approach. We know from psychological science that relying solely on mandated training designed primarily to limit the organization's legal liability is unlikely to be effective."

While the lack of meaningful change is not entirely surprising, it is disappointing, he said.

Only 10 percent of U.S. workers indicated their company has included additional training or resources as a result of increased media attention. Just 8 percent of employers have implemented a stricter policy, and 7 percent have hosted all-staff meetings or town halls to address sexual harassment.

According to the APA, research has discovered that training workers about the correct methods to recognize and report inappropriate behavior isn't enough. The organization recommends incorporating fair policies are clearly communicated, ongoing training, leadership support of a civil and respectful culture, and the hiring and promotion of women into senior leadership roles.

Companies with women in upper management have shown more progressive action when it comes to handling sexual harassment in the workplace. The survey indicated that 56 percent of workers were more likely to report an incident if they experienced it and 55 percent said they reported an instance of harassment if they witnessed it. In addition, 53 percent of respondents reported they confronted a coworker. Organizations without women in leadership roles totaled 39 percent, 41 percent and 34 percent, respectively.

"Sexual harassment at work occurs within a broader context," Ballard said. "For training to produce long-term changes, the organization's workplace practices need to align with and support the individual attitudes and behaviors it's trying to promote. Leaders in a psychologically healthy workplace model civility, respect, fairness and trust. In an organizational culture where every employee feels safe, supported and included, people can be their best, and that's good for people and profits." 

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