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What the Kanye West Allegations Can Teach Us About Harassment Training Development

What the Kanye West Allegations Can Teach Us About Harassment Training Development

Where Reality Beats Non-Offensive Language.

Harassment training providers are often contacted by customers and prospects who express concern over the sometimes-sensitive nature of the examples presented in e-learning courses. There is a frequent dichotomy in post-education review surveys claiming content intended to be informative and instructional in nature is either “too risqué” or “too boring and out of touch with reality.” This requires providers to perform a careful balancing act in the development of their harassment training in an attempt to please everyone. When, in reality the subjective nature of harassment training makes it impossible to please every decision-maker (and every learner), which leads to a very competitive marketplace with a lot of provider choices.

Protecting employees from offensive examples in training can do more harm than good

 Having represented management in harassment cases throughout a career spanning three decades, it has become clear that the facts of harassment cases are becoming more vulgar and “fantastic” (in the worst possible sense of the word) every year. While the goal of mandatory training laws and an often-cited need for “interactivity” in training was intended to reduce incidents from occurring all too frequently, training courses are indeed too bland and boring to match the reality of the often extremely offensive and vulgar facts that occur on a normal basis across the country and globe. For this reason, it is sometimes necessary to open the eyes of the workforce to the brutal reality of what is going on around them, helping learners understand why we all have a duty to keep one another safe from incidents that can have a catastrophic impact on workplace culture and the ability to do our jobs.

Allegations against Kanye West highlight the need for exposing learners to the harsh reality of actual harassment cases

Training courses of all types rely on inspiration from real-life events to become most effective. On June 6, 2024, rapper Kanye West was sued by his former assistant for a series of offensive conduct that would make any employee or learner cringe (if proven true). Among the allegations against West are a series of repeated and explicit text messages that even TMZ refused to print all of (see link for a detailed explanation of what is available). The assistant also alleges West would use his FaceTime feature to call her and engage in explicit activity while keeping her on the phone. Finally, TMZ reports a series of X-rated photographs of West and a model sent by West to his former assistant.

All of the allegations against West are shocking and offensive. Were such a fact pattern to be included in a harassment training course, there is no doubt decision-makers would think twice before selecting it for their corporate education program. However, these types of fact patterns are all unfortunately too common in today’s work environment, and employees are undoubtedly shocked when something either happens to them or happens within their organization. Therefore, the question presents itself: is it better to shock learners with the truth up front or wait until something bad happens?

New EEOC guidance on harassment enforcement brings the agency’s examples closer to reality

The United States EEOC recently released its updated guidance on enforcement of harassment in the workplace.  While Syntrio has written extensively on the impact this guidance has on e-learning providers and the content contained in their courses (Syntrio was one of the only providers in the market willing to delay release of its 2024 courseware to ensure alignment with this guidance). The examples used in the guidance indeed use explicit and offensive terms such as ‘gelding,’ ‘eunuch,’ and Haitians practicing “voodoo” (along with other terms that employers may be afraid to present to their employees in a training course). That said, even the examples in this new guidance are still out of line with the vulgar and explicit nature of allegations in daily lawsuits alleging sexual (and other forms of workplace) harassment.

Mitratech Syntrio takes a careful approach to crafting and developing its scenarios and examples

We understands the need for balance in e-learning presentations. Therefore, we often present the foundation that our examples are based on real- life circumstances and case law. We believe that presenting the reality and existence of hostile work environments when employees are exposed to workplace harassment can only be avoided by presenting a nuanced approach to fact and example delivery. While the material is inherently  offensive in nature, a strategic presentation (with careful attention paid to avoid visual depictions and foul language) keeps the training in line with reality while minimizing offensive impact. This novel approach has led to outstanding reviews across the board and a number of industry awards for excellence in e-learning and compliance training.   

 Mitratech Syntrio welcomes the opportunity to share with a member of your organization our industry-leading approach to not only harassment training, but other courses that can aid you in improving your workplace culture. By preventing incidents of harassment, discrimination, and bullying; and by promoting inclusive behavior and a speak up culture we know we can help you maintain the reputation you have worked so hard to cultivate. Contact a member of our staff today to see why Syntrio’s training is different from the rest!

Contact a member of our staff today to learn more about how Syntrio can partner with you on these important topics.

We invite you to speak with a member of our staff today to see how Syntrio’s products are different from its competitors, and discover why our customers trust Syntrio to deliver the message that there is no tolerance for harassment and discrimination in our customers’ workplaces.  The organizations we work with provide training for the mental and physical health benefit of their employees, and not simply because they are required to do so. We look forward to partnering with your organization on the creation of a platform of education utilizing our industry-leading products that will help prevent ugly incidents like the one discussed in the paragraphs above.

Since 2007, Jonathan has practiced labor and employment law on behalf of management. Jonathan focuses his practice on advising employers on the prevention of harassment and discrimination issues, with an emphasis on providing in-person harassment training programs to companies of all sizes. Jonathan is licensed in California, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and maintains a national advice practice.

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