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All 33,000 Arizona state workers required to get harassment training

(Facebook/Arizona Capitol Museum)

PHOENIX — All 33,000 state employees in Arizona will undergo new harassment training starting in January 2018.

“Every single employee will be exposed to this training once a year,” said Elizabeth Alvarado-Thorson, the human resources director at the Arizona Department of Administration.

“The new training component really is a good overview on the standards of conduct that’s expected,” she said.

The new 30-minute computer-based training will highlight several areas of importance for employees.

“One being the expected standards of conduct for state employees,” she said. “Letting them know what’s acceptable and unacceptable behavior in the workplace.”

There will also be a simulation of scenarios in workplace that may rise to the level of harassment, retaliation and discrimination in the workplace.

“Knowing that employees may not be aware of the legal terminology, my training folks have put those things in very common language for [them],” she said.

Of course, part of the focus is to prevent inappropriate behavior and harassment in the workplace, but Alvarado-Thorson said a secondary focus is to provide clear avenues for reporting that harassment.

“If they’re experiencing harassment or retaliation or any form of discrimination, we want them to know how they can report those infractions.”

Alvarado-Thorson said there are several different ways employees can report.

“We always encourage employees and managers to handle those situations at the lowest level,” she said.

“If for some reason an employee believes that they can’t do that, if they can’t report an active harassment, retaliation or discrimination to their immediate supervisor or their manager, they can always [report to] their in-house HR professionals.”

The group that created the new training started working before a series of allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior surfaced across the nation, Alvarado-Thorson said.

Sexual misconduct allegations have since forced out top Hollywood, business and media figures and led to the resignations of three members of Congress, including Arizona Rep. Trent Franks.

The new training begins Jan. 2 and must be completed by March 31. State workers also will be required to undergo annual refresher training.

The state has had a comprehensive anti-harassment and retaliation policy since 1986. It has been amended or expanded since and also follows state and federal law.

But this new training specifically covers sexual and other harassment and retaliation and will be an online course.

The rollout of the training comes as the state House and Senate are focused on the issue. The Senate revised its written sexual harassment policy this month and the House formalized what had been an unwritten policy following complaints against a sitting lawmaker in October.

The House is investigating Rep. Don Shooter after several women complained that he made inappropriate remarks.

In response to the initial complaint from Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, Shooter alleged she had made inappropriate remarks in a public hearing and had an inappropriate workplace relationship.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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