Does your harassment training cover mistreatment of men?

Workplace harassment can rear its ugly head in many different forms. The stereotypical image of harassment as the overbearing male boss making advances on a young, attractive female is a narrow-minded view. And if your training takes this same narrow-minded view, you could be tip-toeing around some legal landmines.

Take male harassment. Last year, the percentage of lawsuits the EEOC filed on behalf of male victims reached an all-time high – amounting to 14% of all cases.

A Seattle Times article explains:

While some cases allege harassment by female supervisors or co-workers, most charges involve men harassing other men. Sometimes it's unwelcome romantic advances. Other times, men are picked on because they are gay, perceived as being gay or not considered masculine enough for the work setting.

As the EEOC handles more lawsuits involving men, it’s also reinforcing the message that this type of harassment is unacceptable and unlawful. Case in point: Last November, the Cheesecake Factory agreed to pay $345,000 to six male employees who claimed they were sexually assaulted by a group of male kitchen staffers at a Phoenix-area restaurant.

Another case in point, this time involving women making unwanted advances toward men: Last year, the Regal Entertainment Group agreed to pay $175,000 to a male employee who claimed a female co-worker repeatedly grabbed his crotch.

While male victims may be less inclined to come forward with their harassment claims for fear of being judged or ridiculed, they shouldn’t be expected to suffer in silence either.

“All sexual harassment victims feel humiliated, lacking control and power," says Mary Jo O'Neill, a regional attorney in the EEOC's Phoenix District office.

How inclusive is your harassment training? Are you taking a broad view of every type of harassment that can surface in your workplace? And more important, are you educating your staff on the attitudes and actions against women and men that can get them in trouble?

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