The House and Senate have moved to adopt mandatory sexual harassment awareness training. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) want to additionally reform the way Congress handles sexual harassment complaints, making the process easier for victims and less protective of offenders. (Shawn Thew/Epa-Efe/Rex/Shutterstock)

by Lauren B. Edelman the Agnes Roddy Robb professor of law and professor of sociology at the University of California at Berkeley, and the author of “Working Law: Courts, Corporations and Symbolic Civil Rights.”

Now that we’ve had something of an awakening about the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in the American workplace, the conversation is shifting to what to do about it. In many workplaces, the answer seems to be that we need mandatory training and clearer policies.

That seems to be the dominant thinking on Capitol Hill. After more than 1,500 former congressional aides signed a letter calling for action, the Houseand Senate adopted mandatory anti-harassment training for all lawmakers and staffers. This “sends a clear message: harassment of any kind is not and will not be tolerated in Congress,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee, said in a statement.

Unfortunately, there is little evidence that training reduces sexual harassment. Rather, training programs, along with anti-harassment policies and reporting procedures, do more to shield employers from liability than to protect employees from harassment. And the clearest message they send is to the courts: Nothing to see here, folks.


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