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The average harassment claim that is settled out of court costs roughly $75,000 to $125,000 according to an ERC Consulting survey. While the settlement cost is high, those figures do not include the cost of time spent preparing a response to a charge and/or any attorney fees that are incurred investigating and preparing preliminary litigation paperwork prior to settlement. Therefore, the true costs of a charge are likely significantly higher (as much as double the ERC figure).

Further, when taking into account the dollar value of a claim of harassment, one must consider the public relations cost, as well as the various “soft costs” discussed in the previous blog (i.e. lost productivity, absence during investigation, manager time spent conducting investigations, and interviews, etc.). All of the costs discussed in this section are present whether your organization is five employees or five hundred thousand employees. Therefore, the question is not whether your organization can afford to conduct training to mitigate the risk of an incident of harassment, it is how can it afford not to?

How to Mitigate Risk

By now, it is clear that a policy, investigation procedure, and regular and routine harassment training are not a luxury but a must for an organization of any size. Those organizations who eschew training because it is “only recommended” or “not required” or (even more egregious) “because the non-compliance risk outweighs the lost work time used on training” are truly playing with fire in today’s high-sensitivity work environment.When an organization commits to a policy of harassment mitigation including a strong written policy, steps toward a positive and respectful workplace culture, and regular and routine training that goes far beyond any minimum requirements or recommendations set forth by a state, they are in the best position in the event an incident occurs. In some states, the amount of training directly offsets a claim of failure to prevent harassment and/or discrimination. In other states, conducting training can avoid fines that can start in the thousands of dollars and increase exponentially based on the number of employees who do not take required training.

There is no way to eliminate the risk of an employee disregarding the employer’s policy and/or advice and preventative practice. However, as you can see, training is an essential component of a harassment prevention program in organizations of all sizes that helps to mitigate risk and minimize the soft and dollar costs of harassment. Conducting training on not just harassment, but also the prevention of discrimination, diversity and inclusion, speak up/bystander intervention training and training on developing and maintaining a civil and respectful workplace is key to ensuring your employees that they not only work in an environment that is intolerant towards harassment and discrimination, but also willing to take the time to enrich the lives and culture of their workforce. The fact that these practices help to mitigate damages in the event something happens is merely a secondary benefit of engaging in widespread harassment prevention techniques.

My HR Department is presenting this information as seen in ExPerspectives in Syntrio.com 

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