Employers who provide
regular anti-harassment training increase their chances of
establishing a defense to claims of unlawful harassment. The
Supreme Court has held that an employer may be able to avoid
or minimize liability for unlawful harassment if it can prove
1. it exercised reasonable care
to prevent and correct harassment; and
2. the employee bringing a claim
unreasonably failed to report the harassment to management
or otherwise avoid the harm.
The EEOC has stated that, if feasible, employers “should
provide training to all employees to ensure that they
understand their rights and responsibilities.”
It also has stated that "[a]n employer should ensure
that its supervisors and managers understand their responsibilities
under the organization's anti-harassment policy and
complaint procedure. Periodic training of these individuals
can help achieve that result.”
Training on harassment and discrimination
prevention also can help employers avoid punitive damages.
The Supreme Court has made clear that an employer who is sued
because of a supervisor’s discrimination or harassment
will be shielded from liability for punitive damages if the
supervisor’s acts were contrary to the employer’s
good faith efforts to comply with the federal anti-discrimination
each of the following harassment and discrimination cases,
evidence of whether or not the employer provided training
was a factor in determining liability or the availability
of punitive damages.
EEOC v. Management Hospitality of Racine, Inc., 666 F.3d 422 (7th Cir. 2012): Defendant's sexual harassment policy was not sufficient to insulate it from punitive damages in part because it did not engage in good faith efforts to educate managers about sexual harassment in the workplace.
Tepperwien v. Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc., 663 F.3d 556 (2d Cir. 2011): Employee was not entitled to punitive damages for retlaiation in part because employer trained all its employees on its anti-harassment policy and provided employees with many avenues to report discrimination, retaliation, or harassment.
Monteagudo v. Asociacion de Empleados del Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, 554 F.3d 164 (1st Cir. 2009): Punitive damages for manager's sexual harassment of employee were appropriate where employer did not identify any anti-discriination training for supervisors.
v. Caribbean Forms Manufacturer, Inc., 399 F.3d 52
(1st Cir. 2005): Award of $199,999 in punitive damages
for discriminatory discharge was upheld, in part based on
evidence that the employer did not provide its employees with
D. v. California Institute of Technology, 339 F.3d
1158 (9th Cir. 2003): State university employer established
affirmative defense to harassment claim in part based on evidence
that it conducted periodic training on sexual harassment.
v. Scollon Productions, 335 F.3d 325 (4th Cir. 2003):
Employer found liable for co-worker harassment where company
lacked a clear sexual harassment policy and there was no evidence
that it conducted any preventive training.
v. Management and Training Corp, 5 Fed. Appx. 865
(10th Cir. 2003): Award of $150,000 in punitive damages for
intentional discrimination and retaliation was upheld, where
the employer offered no evidence of anti-discrimination training
of supervisors who were implicated in the employee's claims
and the employer took no action after the employee informed
it of his intention to file a discrimination suit.
Bishop v. Woodbury Clinical Laboratory, 2010 WL 1525922 (M.D. Tenn. 2010): Employer could not establish affirmative defense to sexual harassment claim where there was no evidence it provided training on its sexual harassment policy and reporting requirements.
EEOC v. Caterpillar, Inc., 503 F.Supp. 2d (N.D. Ill. 2007): EEOC's claims for punitive damages were dismissed because of steps the defendant took to prevent sexual harassment, including training on harassment.
Church v. State of Maryland,
180 F.Supp.2d 708 (D.Md. 2002): The State of Maryland successfully
established a defense in a sexual harassment lawsuit brought
by a correctional officer. The defense was based in part on
evidence that the State effectively implemented an anti-harassment
policy; provided training on the policy and complaint procedure
for all incoming officers at the correctional training academy;
and provided periodic anti-harassment training for supervisors.
Roelen v. Akron Beacon Journal,
199 F.Supp.2d 685 (N.D. Ohio 2002): The employer successfully
defended against a harassment claim in part based on evidence
that it implemented and enforced an anti-harassment policy
and provided mandatory harassment training.
Mancuso v. City of Atlantic City,
193 F.Supp.2d 789 (D. New Jersey 2002): The court denied the
employer’s motion for summary judgment in part because
of significant questions regarding the employer’s anti-harassment
efforts. While the employer did provide some training to its
employees, the plaintiff and others contended that they were
never provided with any information regarding sexual harassment
beyond being required to read and sign the employer’s
policy. There also was testimony that the training was not
provided with any sort of regularity.