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No shortcuts to quality workplace harassment training: Ryley

By Tony Poland, AdvocateDaily.com Associate Editor

The ongoing turmoil at Google caused by the handling of sexual harassment allegations "is a lesson for organizations that don't have a plan in place or don't do enough to eliminate" it in their workplace, says Bay Ryley, founder and president of workplace e-learning company Ryley Learning.

Earlier this year, lawsuits were filed by investors claiming the board covered up sexual harassment by Google executives, including one who was given a $90-million exit package even after an internal investigation found the allegations were credible.

As well, thousands of Google employees worldwide staged a walkout to protest the company’s handling of the complaints, prompting the organization to change the way it deals with allegations, CBC reports.

Ryley tells AdvocateDaily.com that having effective sexual harassment policies and training can decrease an organization’s risk of employee and shareholder lawsuits, human rights claims, and employees’ lack of trust.

“Employees want to know that you have their safety in mind and that you set the tone from the top that sexual misconduct is absolutely prohibited,” she says. “They see that by the quality of training and the emphasis on policies that the workplace has.”

Ryley created the online training tool “Eliminating Sexual Harassment: It’s Everyone’s Business” — delivered via computer, tablet or smartphone — which features an animated video series and interactive exercises.

Ryley Learning's four 10-minute episodes follow staff and managers at a fictitious company, using humour and empathy to show the subtleties of sexual harassment.

Because it is an online tool, the program is easy for employees to complete on their own time, and eliminates the aggravation of scheduling in-person training, she explains.

Pointing to the fallout at Google, she says organizations that are not proactive in addressing sexual harassment in the workplace run the risk of reputational damage and financial losses.

The claims against Google show that shareholder lawsuits are a newer — but damaging — outcome where a board fails to take steps to prevent workplace sexual harassment, Ryley says.

If you have good training, that's one prong of limiting your liability,” she says. “A company has to be able to show they have policies that they take very seriously.”

Ryley, who spent years litigating sexual harassment cases and designing company diversity and inclusion policies, says it’s vital to provide a program that “employees truly understand.”

Unlike some educational materials that detail only clear cases of misconduct, the Ryley Learning method explores grey areas that people often struggle with, she says.

“High-quality, effective training is essential,” Ryley says.

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