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More and more, small businesses are recognizing the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), but many still need help figuring out where and how to begin. We get it. We’re on this journey ourselves.

Back in June, we added two DE&I guides to our platforms. The first covered the workplace compliance issues raised by race, protests, and politics. The second outlined the steps employers can take to stand up for racial justice. Here on the blog, we’ve recently explained what employers should do if an employee makes a racist statement and what employers can do to help their employees feel safe to speak up about mistreatment they’ve witnessed or experienced

Today we’re adding four DE&I training courses to our Workplace Harassment Prevention training package on Learn.  

New Training Courses

These courses introduce employers and their employees to a few of the basic DE&I concepts, particularly unconscious bias. Understanding these concepts is an important step in preventing harassment in the workplace. We recommend employees complete courses in the order below:

  • Understanding Unconscious Bias (25 minutes)
  • Overcoming Your Own Unconscious Biases (25 minutes)
  • Your Role in Workplace Diversity (30 minutes)
  • Compliance Short: Unconscious Bias (5 minutes)

Clients and partners with the Workplace Harassment Prevention Learn package can access these courses at no extra charge. 

Why Start with Unconscious Bias?

We all have unconscious biases, so it’s a good topic with which to begin DE&I discussions with employees. As the name suggests, unconscious biases affect our decisions without our realizing it. We may prefer to associate with younger people rather than older people, or enjoy the company of women more than men, or react more amicably to people of our own race. More concerning: we may unconsciously associate one group with positive stereotypes and another group with negative ones. Research shows, for example, that resumes with white-sounding names are more likely to get callbacks than resumes with Black-sounding names. And it’s not because companies have official policies or practices against hiring Black people; it’s the result of unconscious bias.

Training Course Considerations

Do all four courses have to be taken together? Not necessarily. To get the most out of them, we recommend having employees view them in the order listed above, but you could spread them out over several days or weeks depending on the availability of employees.

Can we make the courses mandatory for employees? You can, yes. Requiring attendance emphasizes that you take unconscious bias and other DE&I issues seriously and that you expect employees to contribute to a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. 

Should we offer the training courses during the workday? We recommend that you do, yes. It makes it easier to track work time and sends the message that you value the training.

Do we have to pay employees for their time at these training courses? If you require attendance, yes. Department of Labor guidance says that trainings can only be non-work time (unpaid under the Fair Labor Standards Act) if all four of the following criteria are met:

  • The training occurs outside of the employee’s normal work hours;
  • The training is completely voluntary (there will be no company-initiated consequences if the employee does not attend);
  • The training is not specifically job-related (it may be tangentially related to their job, such as most continuing education, but cannot be specific to how they do their job on a day-to-day basis); and
  • No work for the employer is performed during the training (e.g., reading or replying to email or requests).

What should we do after employees have taken these courses? Talk as a team about what you’ve learned and what efforts you can take to increase diversity and reduce the negative effects of unconscious bias.

Conclusion

For many employers, the road to making the workplace more diverse, equitable, and inclusive will be a long one. With that in mind, we will be continuing to expand our DE&I content and support for our clients and partners for the foreseeable future.

To learn more about the DE&I courses we launched today, visit our Workplace Harassment Prevention page