Annual Compliance Training

Perusing my old blog, XtremeHR, I came across this post I wrote in November 2010, and decided I would like to share it again since it is approaching annual compliance training in many organizations– let’s bring back the accountability folks!

Each year many organizations role out annual compliance training required of its employees to complete. Typically this training is made up of one or more of the following:

  • Sexual Harassment
  • Diversity
  • Ethics
  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Discrimination


I bring up this topic because I recently had to finish up a couple of compliance courses assigned to me this year through our learning management system. I thought as I completed these courses, how many people really pay attention to the content being delivered? Reality: not many as we are completing this course because we have to. In fact, many will just let the course play while they work and chime in when their attention is needed on a required question or quiz.

Therefore, are we really doing a service to our employees requiring them to complete these courses if the information is not being utilized? What about instances where the training is required because of a state law or ordinance? State law you may ask. Yes, some states have mandated laws or ordinances that require companies to require training.

A Few Examples of States Requiring Training


Employers with 50 or more employees, and all public employers, to provide non-harassment training, as explained below. An employer having 50 or more employees, and all public employers, shall provide sexual harassment training and education to each supervisory employee in California once every two years. New supervisors must receive training within their first six months. The training and education required by this section must address federal and state statutory prohibitions against, and the prevention and correction of, sexual harassment and the remedies available to victims of sexual harassment in employment. The training must also include practical examples aimed at instructing supervisors in the prevention of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.


Requires state agencies to provide diversity training to supervisors, and it requires private employers with 50 or more employees to provide non-harassment training to supervisors. The training must meet specific criteria, as explained below. Connecticut law requires state agencies to provide three hours of diversity training to all supervisory and non-supervisory employees and to all new supervisory employees within six months of the assumption of a position with a state agency. The diversity training must include information on state and federal discrimination laws as well as hate crimes directed at protected classes. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-54(16)(A).

The Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (CFEPA) requires all employers with 50 or more employees to provide sexual harassment training to supervisors. The mandated training is to be provided in the first six months of becoming a supervisor. Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 46a-54(15)(B). As long as the employees are given an opportunity “to ask questions and obtain answers in a reasonably prompt manner”, online training can satisfy the training requirement. 5/19/03 Opinion Letter.
The mandated training and education is to be conducted in a classroom-like setting, “using clear and understandable language and in a format that allows participants to ask questions and receive answers. Audio, video, and other teaching aides may be utilized to increase comprehension or to otherwise enhance the training process.”

* The content of the training must do the following:

  • Describe the federal and state statutory provisions prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace with which the employer is required to comply, including, but not limited to, the Connecticut discriminatory employment practices statute (section 46a-60 of the Connecticut General Statutes) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (42 U.S.C. section 2000e, and following sections);
  • Define sexual harassment as explicitly set forth in subdivision (8) of subsection (a) of section 46a-60 of the Connecticut General Statutes and as distinguished from other forms of illegal harassment prohibited by subsection (a) of section 46a-60 of the Connecticut General Statutes and section 3 of Public Act 91-58;
  • Discuss the types of conduct that may constitute sexual harassment under the law, including the fact that the harasser or the victim of harassment may be either a man or a woman and that harassment can occur involving persons of the same or opposite sex;
  • Describe the remedies available in sexual harassment cases, including, but not limited to, cease and desist orders; hiring, promotion or reinstatement; compensatory damages; and back pay;
  • Advise employees that individuals who commit acts of sexual harassment may be subject to both civil and criminal penalties; and
  • Discuss strategies to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

* While not exclusive, the training may also include, but is not limited to, the following elements:

  • Informing training participants that all complaints of sexual harassment must be taken seriously, and that once a complaint is made, supervisory employees should report it immediately to officials designated by the employer, and that the contents of the complaint are personal and confidential and are not to be disclosed except to those persons with a need to know;
  • Conducting experiential exercises such as role playing, co-ed group discussions, and behavior modeling to facilitate understanding of what constitutes sexual harassment and how to prevent it;
  • Teaching the importance of interpersonal skills such as listening and bringing participants to understand what a person who is sexually harassed may be experiencing;
  • Advising employees of the importance of preventive strategies to avoid the negative effects sexual harassment has upon both the victim and the overall productivity of the workplace due to interpersonal conflicts, poor performance, absenteeism, turnover, and grievances;
  • Explaining the benefits of learning about and eliminating sexual harassment, which include a more positive work environment with greater productivity and potentially lower exposure to liability, in that employers–and supervisors personally–have been held liable when it is shown that they knew or should have known of the harassment;
  • Explaining the employer’s policy against sexual harassment, including a description of the procedures available for reporting instances of sexual harassment and the types of disciplinary actions that can and will be taken against persons who have been found to have engaged in sexual harassment; and
  • Discussing the perceptual and communication differences among all persons and, in this context, the concepts of “reasonable woman” and “reasonable man” developed in federal sexual harassment cases.

* While not required, Connecticut encourages an employer having 50 or more employees to provide an upgrade of legal interpretations and related developments concerning sexual harassment to supervisory personnel once every three years.


Oklahoma requires specific training for employees who investigate complaints of discrimination, as explained below.

Section 840-2.1 (F)(1) of Title 74 and Section 10-3-20 of Title 530 of the Oklahoma Statutes requires state employees who investigate complaints of discrimination to be trained on such topic. The training should include:

  1. Four days of initial discrimination complaints investigator training either conducted by the Office of Personnel Management or approved by the Administrator; and
  2. A minimum of one investigation under the guidance of a senior EEO investigator, designated by the Administrator. The senior EEO investigator shall advise and support the investigator in developing competency in investigating complaints of discrimination; and
  3. A minimum of six hours of classroom instruction or 0.6 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) in training each calendar year.

Discrimination complaints investigator training shall provide participants with a current knowledge of:

  1. Oklahoma and federal equal employment opportunity laws and rules;
  2. Theories of discrimination and burdens of proof;
  3. Planning and conducting complete and impartial investigations;
  4. Techniques for interviewing witnesses;
  5. Collecting relevant evidence;
  6. Documenting the record of investigation; and
  7. Preparing the written report of investigation.

Delivery Method of Training

More states are beginning to require mandates of training for employers, especially supervisory and management positions. If your organization operates in a state that requires sexual harassment training or another form of training, how is this information delivered? Face-to-face or online? Which method is more effective?
Do you think people get the importance of the content when it is delivered online? Not so much if they have the ability to work while completing the course. This ultimately begs the question then, would face-to-face be more effective in regards to sexual harassment, discrimination, or ethics training? What do you think?


Oh, I mentioned a word many do not like to hear – ethics.

When speaking about ethics, I always watch how someone reacts. They either react with open arms or they cringe at the sound of the word. Truthfully, I have never really understood why someone would cringe at the sound of the word, but I guess that is because there are many consequences and issues that arise with people who act unethically.

And rightfully so since it seems like we are hearing about unethical behavior by individuals within organizations more and more these days. Additionally, now universities are making news for major questions in ethical behavior. Recently, the University of Central Florida’s College of Business made news when 200+ students were caught cheating on an exam. Unfortunately, students are being given a way out if they come forward. If a student informs the university of their cheating on the exam, they will be required to complete an ethics course and the cheating will be wiped from their record. Hello! What message does this send? We are saying it is ok to do wrong as long as I admit to it and take a course to tell me why my behavior was wrong.

Allowing people to get away with inappropriate behavior is what continues this downward spiral of unethical practices by people in the workplace. Heck, we are saying it is ok to cheat in school by letting a student admit to their dishonesty, take an ethics course, and wipe it from their record. When I went to school and you were caught cheating (substantiated), that was it. An option to complete an ethics course was not presented – even if it was a test bank that you found online and the professor was stupid enough to use it for their exam. If students are getting this pass in school, don’t you think they will expect this same pass in the workplace?


We need to begin holding people accountable for their actions and behavior. It is a constant to want to hold line-level employees responsible, but what about our managers, directors, vice presidents, senior vice presidents, presidents, and CEOs? What makes these people exempt? The answer: NOTHING! Regardless of what power they exude in the organization.

I want some discussion on this topic. Is your organization one that rolls out annual compliance training? Do they roll this training out to everyone or just management? Has the training been effective? Is everyone held accountable for unethical or inappropriate behavior?

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