ATD Blog

71 Percent of Organizations Offer Sexual Harassment Prevention Training

Monday, November 13, 2017

Sexual harassment in the workplace isn’t new, but the topic has gained attention recently. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.” The EEOC also states that prevention is the best way to combat such unwanted behavior. As such, it’s important for organizations to provide effective sexual harassment prevention training. But how many organizations even offer such training, and what does this training entail?

To gain a better understanding of sexual harassment prevention training, the Association for Talent Development (ATD) conducted an online poll of 955 organizational learning, training, and human resources professionals, administered in October and November 2017. Results showed that while nearly nine in 10 participants reported that their organization had a formal, written sexual harassment policy, 71 percent of organizations offered sexual harassment prevention training. It should be noted that such training is not federally mandated. Instead, it is up to states to decide whether to require sexual harassment prevention training.

When discussing the topic of sexual harassment prevention training, it’s important to consider who receives the training. Nearly eight in 10 participants whose organizations provided sexual harassment training indicated that everyone in their organization was required to participate in it. Although typically everyone has to take sexual harassment prevention training, learners on average don’t actually spend much time in it. In fact, the average amount of time an employee spends in sexual harassment prevention training is just two hours per year.


ATD also asked participants about the focus of sexual harassment prevention training programs at their organizations. A vast majority of respondents whose organizations provided sexual harassment prevention training indicated that training at their organization covers peer-to-peer harassment (91 percent) and supervisor harassment of direct reports (90 percent). Nearly three-quarters reported that it covers harassment of reports “down the line” (in other words, down the chain of command or reporting structure; 73 percent). Two-thirds of respondents indicated that the training covers employee harassment of external people encountered while on the job (such as vendors, clients, or contractors).

Training to prevent sexual harassment hasn’t changed in the last few years, according to nearly half of participants. In fact, 48 percent said that over the last three years, the number of times sexual harassment prevention training is offered and who takes it has not changed; 29 percent said their organization has increased the offering in terms of number of times offered or offered to more people. Additionally, seven in 10 respondents indicated that they expected their organization’s sexual harassment prevention training to remain the same over the next three years, while just 28 percent anticipated an increase in the offering or number of people trained.

About the Author

Megan Cole is a former ATD research analyst. Her primary responsibilities included creating and programming surveys, cleaning and analyzing data, and writing research reports for publication.

She received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Central Florida and earned a doctorate in communication from Arizona State University. 

1 Comment
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Timely article. For 2018, our organization will be ramping up learning/discussions around "Respectful Workplace" to encompass all forms of harassment. Thank you!
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