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The Importance of Equity and Equal Opportunity Training and Education

Updated: Sep 19, 2018

With the Me Too movement and other racial, religious, national origin, and LGBT issues, it's even more important to provide adequate training in your organization.

Introduction

Federal contractors must ensure that employment decisions meet the organization’s overall objective and also comply with Affirmative Action (AA) and Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws and regulations. Moreover, schools (Pre -k to 12, colleges, and universities) are required to stay in compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Maintaining compliance requires an understanding not only of the spirit of those laws and regulations but also of the various mandated forms of record keeping and reporting. Furthermore, maintaining compliance requires knowing what information will be useful in demonstrating (after the fact) that the organization's decisions were based solidly on proper business considerations and not on such impermissible factors such as race, age, gender, national origin, veteran status, or disability.


Federal and state laws require employers to provide work environments that are free from harassment and discrimination. Accordingly, the EEOC Enforcement Guidelines indicates that supervisors and managers receive periodic training, so they fully understand their responsibilities under anti-discrimination harassment and discrimination laws and the employer's complaint procedures. The OCR has similar requirements, as does OFCCP.

Specifically, EEOC guidelines indicate employers should:


Through federal and state regulatory agencies it has been made clear that an employer must provide its employees as well as its managers and supervisors with training to understand their responsibilities under anti-discrimination and harassment laws, the organization’s policy, and the employer’s internal complaint procedures. Both state and federal courts have applied this EEOC and states’ rule and penalized employers when they have neglected to train their employees adequately.


Benefits of Compliance Training

One of the most effective ways to show compliance with federal and state laws is to have in place a documented compliance training program for all faculty, staff, and students. The need for workplace compliance training is increasing as a growing number of state and federal employment laws and regulations require managers and employees to have a certain amount of legal knowledge to adhere to legal regulations while at the workplace. Moreover, University policy requires that University Officials, faculty, and student are knowledgeable about University policy and procedures, and mechanism for reporting.

Creating a safe, welcoming and inclusive organization requires an understanding not only of the organization's policy, and the spirit of Civil Rights laws and regulations, but also the importance of record keeping, tracking and reporting incidents. It is essential that decisions made in response to allegations not be made on any prohibited factor such as protected class. Federally protected classes are race, age, gender, national origin, veteran, or disability status. Increasingly, employers are not aware of specific risks or penalties they could experience by not incorporating proper EEO, harassment, and other compliance training into their training programs.


Compliance Training Program Options

· The organizations charge specific offices to provide customized discrimination and harassment prevention workshops, Title IX training, Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action (recruitment and search process) training, ADA/Disability Discrimination training, and diversity and inclusion training for employees and schools, students. The Office of Equal Opportunity may collaborate with other offices to deliver instruction.

· Online, or web-based compliance training on issues of discrimination and harassment prevention workshops, Title IX training, Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action (recruitment and search process) training, training on ISU’s Affirmative Action Program, ADA/Disability Discrimination training, and diversity and inclusion training for employees and students


Compliance Training Implementation

When undertaking a compliance training program, it is imperative to follow a planned and strategic process. It recommended that organizations structure any new compliance training program in three phases as detailed below.


Phase I – Immediate Compliance

The EEOC, OFCCP, state regulatory agencies, and OCR require regular and consistent training of employees and students. Accordingly, Phase I would necessitate the training of all employees and students. Preferably, if the organization is large enough, the training would consist of online training to meet compliance obligations with applicable federal and state laws and organizational policy. Online or web-based training programs offer convenience, tend to reach large audiences, and typically have built-in audit quality tracking to document training completion rates. Phase I will encompass mandated training. The time frame for Phase I is between three and six months.

Program completion records should be confidentially maintained by the organization's EEO Office or equivalent.

Phase II – Organization Wide Training Audit

In this phase, the EEO Office or equivalent staff should conduct meetings with crucial organization stakeholders (President, Deans, Directors, Chairs, department heads, VP’S, leaders) to assess current needs and gaps to develop more strategic and comprehensive compliance training program. After the "listening tour," it is essential for the EEO Office staff to collect data on complaints, incidents, requests for training, attrition, retention, and employee satisfaction. An effective means of gather data is through existing data available in the EEO Office, interviewing administrators, and employee/student surveys. The analysis and audit should also include the following:

· Gain feedback from employee networks and affinity groups

· Collect demographic statistics

· Utilized internal benchmarking

· Utilize external benchmarking to identify best practices

· Identify costs associated with various internal training and online training

· Determine and analyze the current training provided throughout the organization.

· Identify staff to assist with the training program

· Seek external expertize when needed.

Phase III – Develop and Implement the Compliance Training Program

Determine the best approach for a comprehensive compliance training program to incorporate various training methods and diverse learning styles. These can include:

· Face to face, instructor lead

· Face to face, interactive

· Online, interactive

· Workshops

· Speakers

· Consultants

· Conferences

· Specific and targeted programming

· Marketing and messaging initiatives

*Develop, implement and promote the organization’s equity compliance training program


Who Should Receive Training?

EEOC and the OFCCP require that federal contractors train all of its employees no matter the category or rank on applicable federal statutes. OCR recommends that training be provided to a broad group of employees, including "to any employees likely to witness or receive reports of sexual harassment and violence, including teachers, school law enforcement employees, school administrators, school counselors, general counsels, health personnel, and resident advisors." In other words, reach those who may "RISE":

1. Receive reports of sexual assault or harassment (including teachers, administrators, counselors, RAs);

2. Implement grievance procedures (including Title IX coordinators, investigators, and

adjudicators).

3. Security personnel and law enforcement;

4. Eyewitnesses


Employee Training

· Title IX Coordinators – particular focus on policies and grievance procedures, coordinating campus and law enforcement efforts, training others and assessing/taking steps to ensure overall compliance.

· Senior University Officials, President, Vice Presidents, Associate and Assistant Vice Presidents, Deans, Directors, Chairs, department heads, managers, and supervisors.

· Investigators and Adjudicators – particular focus on grievance procedures, confidentiality, conflicts of interest, "preponderance of the evidence standard."

· Law Enforcement Personnel – particular focus on investigating reports, notifying students of their rights/campus resources, reporting to Title IX Coordinators, grievance procedures.

· Health and counseling staff – particular focus on survivors' services

· Coaches, assistant coaches, athletics staff, and students.

· Staff, faculty, CAs, and the broader campus community – particular focus on identifying sexual violence, handling reports, confidentiality, and promoting a safe culture

· All new employees and all new students (for schools).

In addition to online training which is part of Phase I, continue any current in-person, new employee, annual discrimination, and harassment, sexual harassment training programs, and customized programs. Although these training programs tend to be voluntary, the organization would continue to reach a specific audience while conducting the Phase II audit.


Student Training

· All students must receive Title IX training and discrimination and harassment prevention training.

· All new students should receive training during orientation.

· Continue current in-person new student training, as well as annual discrimination and harassment for undergraduate and graduate students, and individualized training sessions where needed.


Conclusion

Online courseware is proven to provide an affirmative legal defense that has withstood the test of intense courtroom scrutiny. Moreover, online training is an excellent reference resource since typically the course can be reviewed repeatedly.

Given that (1) EEOC, OFCCP, OCR, and state regulations mandate training (2) more proactive state and federal agencies in determining if organizations are in fact training its employees and students and (3) the continuing substantial fines, penalties, settlements, grievances, and complaints, it is clear that when organizations fail to prioritize compliance training, budget for and invest in a comprehensive compliance training program it opens up the organization to increased liability. It is critical for organizations to meet government mandates for training, plan for and budget for a regular, consistent compliance training programs

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