In the wake of the #MeToo movement and increasing awareness of workplace harassment, many states have mandated sexual harassment training for employers. While the intention behind these initiatives is commendable — fostering safer work environments and preventing misconduct — the reality is that free state-provided training programs often fall short in addressing the complexities of sexual harassment in the modern workplace.

Below, you’ll discover whether or not you have employees that reside in a state that requires sexual harassment training, and why these free state-provided programs often fall short of expectations.

Which states require sexual harassment training?

As of May 2024, the following states require sexual harassment training to some extent:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Washington, D.C.

The downfalls of state-provided harassment training

Here are some of the key downsides associated with relying solely on these programs.

1. Generic content

State-provided training modules tend to offer one-size-fits-all solutions that may not resonate with employees or adequately address the specific dynamics of different workplaces. This generic content fails to capture the nuances of harassment scenarios that could occur within a particular industry or organizational culture.

Providers like Ethena (that’s us!) offer customizable training solutions that can be tailored to the specific context of your organization. This means the content is relevant, relatable, and more likely to be effective. Ethena’s training programs incorporate real-life scenarios, making the training more engaging and impactful for your employees.

2. Limited engagement

Employees are more likely to disengage from training that feels obligatory or lacks interactive elements. Free state-provided programs often consist of static presentations or videos that fail to capture attention or encourage active participation. As a result, the training may not effectively convey the seriousness of the issue or inspire behavioral change.

Free state-provided training programs often use outdated methods, such as long videos or dense reading materials, which can lead to low engagement and poor retention of information. Employees may view the training as a mere formality rather than a meaningful educational experience.

At Ethena, our training is designed with modern learning principles in mind, utilizing microlearning techniques, interactive content, and regular updates to keep the material fresh and engaging. Our approach ensures that employees are not just passively consuming information, but actively participating in the learning process. This leads to better retention and a deeper understanding of the issues at hand.

3. Outdated information

Sexual harassment laws and best practices evolve over time, yet state-provided training materials may become outdated due to infrequent updates. This can leave employers and employees unaware of recent legal developments or shifts in societal norms regarding appropriate workplace behavior.

4. Lack of accountability

Without accountability measures in place, employers may view state-provided training as a checkbox to be ticked rather than an ongoing commitment to fostering a harassment-free workplace culture. The absence of follow-up or enforcement mechanisms can undermine the effectiveness of the training and perpetuate a culture where harassment is tolerated or overlooked.

5. Minimal resources

State-provided training programs often operate with limited resources, leading to constrained budgets for development and delivery. As a result, the quality of materials and the expertise of trainers may vary widely, diminishing the overall impact of the training on participants.

6. Failure to address power dynamics

Many instances of sexual harassment stem from imbalances of power within the workplace. State-provided training programs may not adequately address these power dynamics or provide strategies for mitigating them, leaving employees vulnerable to abuse by those in positions of authority.

7. Inadequate support for victims

Effective sexual harassment training should not only focus on prevention but also on supporting victims and providing avenues for reporting misconduct. State-provided programs may lack comprehensive resources for victims or fail to instill confidence in reporting mechanisms, leaving employees feeling unsupported and vulnerable.

The final word

While state-provided sexual harassment training serves as a valuable starting point in raising awareness and promoting prevention, it should not be viewed as a substitute for comprehensive, tailored training programs implemented by employers. To truly combat workplace harassment, organizations must invest in ongoing education and training, foster a culture of accountability, and prioritize the safety and well-being of all employees.

By taking proactive steps to address the shortcomings of free state-provided training, employers can create environments where harassment is not only unacceptable but actively prevented and addressed.

About Ethena

At Ethena, we’re committed to making corporate compliance training so good it sticks. In fact, ineffective harassment prevention training was the catalyst for why we were founded

Today, our modern and engaging approach to learning goes beyond check-the-box regulation requirements. With over 1 million ratings and a 93% positivity score, Ethena’s Harassment Prevention training course inspires learners to foster healthy, inclusive, and squeaky clean workplaces.